Chocolate for Dogs - A Definite No-No!

"Can dogs eat chocolate?" is a question that gets asked many times by dog owners. Bad news for Fido - the answer is "No!" If you see a dog treat recipe that calls for chocolate, trash it right away. As much as dogs may like the taste of chocolate, it can be dangerous for dogs to eat chocolate. Here you will find out why and what you can safely use in place of chocolate when making treats for your dog.

Once in a while, I would receive messages from dog parents saying that their dogs had ingested some Hersley's Kisses, or a whole bag of M&Ms.

It seems that dogs find chocolate highly delectable. (Hey, who blames them?) In fact, dogs eating chocolate excessively was recently reported as one of the top 20 most common causes of toxicity in dogs.

It is therefore extremely important that we keep chocolate out of the reach of our dogs.

Why No Chocolate For Dogs?

Chocolate is bad for dogs due to the two substances it contains. One is caffeine, and the other is theobromine, both of which are naturally occurring stimulants.

While we can handle these stimulants without problem as they can be metabolized rather quickly, it is a different story for some other animals, such as dogs (and cats).

Dogs cannot quickly and efficiently metabolize these stimulants. For example, the half life of theobromine is 17.5 hours in dogs, which means that it can do a lot of damage to the various organs (the heart, kidneys, and central nervous system) in the dog's body.

Which Type of Chocolate Is the Worst For Dogs?

Ironically, the higher the quality of chocolate, the more toxic it is to dogs, due to the amount of theobromine contained in the chocolate.

Here you can find the approximate levels of theobromine content in different types of chocolate (taken from the Merck Veterinary Manual):

  • Dry cocoa powder - 800 mg/oz
  • Unsweetened (Baker's) chocolate - 450 mg/oz
  • Cocoa bean mulch - 255 mg/oz
  • Semisweet chocolate and sweet dark chocolate - 150-160 mg/oz
  • Milk chocolate - 44-64 mg/oz
  • White chocolate - an insignificant amount.

What this means is, if your dog has ingested a piece of white chocolate, you don't need to panic. However, it is a totally different story if your dog has ingested some dark chocolate or baking chocolate.

Here you can compare the toxicity levels of different types of chocolate, per pound of body weight:

Chocolate

Toxicity/lb of Body Weight

White Chocolate 200 oz
Milk Chocolate 1 oz
Semi-sweet Chocolate 1 oz
Sweet Cocoa 0.3 oz
Baker's Chocolate 0.1 oz

It means that, a 10-pound dog will have to ingest 125 pounds of white chocolate to reach toxicity level, but a mere ounce of baking chocolate will cause toxicity in the same dog!

Symptoms To Watch Out For

Within hours after dogs eating chocolate, they will show initial signs of distress, which include vomiting, bloating, and diarrhea.

More advanced poisoning will affect the central nervous system, causing the dog to pant, have muscle tremors, become restless or hyperactive, have irregular heartbeats, and seizures. In severe cases, the dog will become comatose and death may occur.

Carob For Dogs

Chocolate for Dogs While chocolate for dogs is bad, carob is totally safe for dogs.

Carob is sweet and tastes similar to chocolate but it is free from caffeine and theobromine; therefore, it is a great ingredient for dog treats. The good news is, carob is healthy for dogs too!

Carob is a good source of calcium, potassium, copper, selenium, and manganese, and is also high in fiber. It also contains vitamins A, B complex, and D. In addition, it is rich in polyphenols, which are antioxidants.

For baking dog cookies and other treats, carob powder and/or chips are usually used in place of chocolate. Here is a recipe with carob.

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