Can Dogs Eat Chocolate?

This is a question posed to Google quite often. The answer is not so cut and dry. It’s not a simple yes or no. But definitely error on the side of ‘no.’

I am a member of several dog-related groups online and someone recently asked the group if Dogs Could Eat Chocolate. 858 responses of “no” or variations such as “What are you stupid?.. Of course not!”

It was a virtual knee-jerk response. But was it really that simple? Is it simply ‘no’ with an exclamation point?

I decided to look into it. I have heard that dogs are allergic to chocolate or that chocolate is lethal to dogs for so long that I just accepted it as fact. And to be honest, it is the safe assumption.

However, it would seem the truth is a bit more complicated.

Chocolate can affect dogs in different ways. It can have no apparent affect on some dogs and others can cause vomiting or upset tummies, and in others can cause seizures and possibly more serious effects.

What is chocolate?

Glad you asked. But how can I possibly describe it and still give it the justice it deserves?

Chocolate is prepared from the fruit of the theobroma cacao. According to the World Cocoa Foundation, we and our world neighbors consume more than 3 million tons of cocoa beans a year.

Well, I think it obvious that no words can convey the incredibleness, the incredible edibleness of chocolate.

And as much as we are dawn to it (I know I am), our dogs can be, too. But chocolate contains substances known as methylxanthines (specifically caffeine and theobromine).

While most of the concern about chocolate and dogs seems to be about the theobromine, the caffeine is also an issue. This particular post is about the chocolate, but I did want to mention the caffeine, since its popularity hasn’t waned. I’ll link another post later.

I would have liked to give you a formula for how much theobromine is lethal, but as I looked into this, I found several references to what appears to be the same table. I’ll leave a few links at the bottom for you to check your own calculations.

Chocolates High in TheobromineBasic Quantity
Baking Chocolate (Unsweetened)per 1oz Square. 376mg
Dark Chocolate (70-85% Cocoa) per 1oz Square. 228mg
Dark Chocolate (60-69% Cocoa)per 1oz Square. 179mg
Sweet Chocolate Candiesper 1.5oz Bar. 175mg
Hot Cocoaper Cup. 170mg
Dark Chocolate Coated Coffee Beansper oz(28 Beans). 147mg
Cocoa Powderper Tblsp. 142mg
Dark Chocolate (45-59% Cocoa)per 1oz Square. 140mg
Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chipsper 1oz Handful. 138mg
Chocolate Wafersper Wafer 21mg

The amount of theobromine will vary naturally due to growing conditions and cocoa bean sources and variety. I’ve checked several sources and it would seem these amounts vary a great deal. I provide the above just to give you an idea of what has more and what has less and just to give an idea of how much theobromine food items contain.

This table below offers some foods with their respective amounts of both Theobromine and Caffeine. Again, let me say that these amounts fluctuate wildly, depending on which source you refer to. I include this table to give you an idea of how much of each might be in the food.

Common Household ItemsServingTheobromineCaffeine
Chocolate Chip Cookies , made with margarine1 Cookie Med (2 1/4″ dia) (16g)20.3mg2.6mg
Cookies, brownies, commercially prepared1 Square (2 –3/4” sq x 7/8″) (56g)43.7mg1.1mg
Doughnut, cake-type, chocolate, sugared or glazed1 Doughnut (3′ dia) (43g)12.6mg0.6mg
Generic Hot Fudge Sundae Topping1 Sundae (158g)77.4mg1.6mg
Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar1.55 oz (43g)64mg9mg
Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup2 Tbsp (39g)64mg5mg
Hershey’s KISSES (Milk Chocolate)9 pieces (41g)61mg9mg
Hershey’s Semi-Sweet Baking Bar1 Tbsp (15g)55mg7mg
Ice Cream Rich Chocolate1 cup ( 148g)178mg5.9mg
KIT KAT Wafer Bar1 bar (42g)48.7mg5.9mg
Milky Way1 bar (58g)37.1 mg3.5mg
Peanut M&M’s1 cup (170g)184mg17mg
Ready to Eat Chocolate Pudding4 oz (108g)75.6mg2.2mg
REESE’S Peanut Butter Cups (2pk)2 cups (45g)32.4mg3.2mg

OK, so you have an idea of how much Theobromine and Caffeine are in various foods and candies that are commonly found in most households. Not mine, of course, but not because I have such discipline. On the contrary, you will not likely find chocolate in my home because I lack discipline. It just doesn’t last that long in my presence.

Toxic doses of theobromine are reported to be as low as 20 mg/2.2 pounds, or 1 kg. Caffeine can be lethal at 150 mg per 2.2 pounds of your pet’s weight (1Kg).

Please listen to me, though. These are averages. Some dogs will react much worse to much less. And others will have a much higher threshold to the toxicity.

The LD50 test. What is it and what does it mean?

A measurement used to determine how lethal a substance is is the LD50. The LD stands for Lethal Dose and the 50 stands for 50% of the test subjects. In more general terms, it is the dose that will kill 50% of dogs. The LD50 of theobromine in dogs is reported as being between 100 and 500 mg/2.2 pounds or 1 kg. In other words, a 16 kg dog will probably die if it eats between 1.6 and 8 g of theobromine.

I think what we can learn from this is that even if you have a large dog, it’s not something to chance. Even the smallest amount could cause a problem.

Death is rare, but it is possible. And we never know if our particular pooch, who otherwise has a cast-iron stomach, might be one of the ones with a low threshold to the toxicity of either the Theobromine and Caffeine.

So, in short, don’t intentionally feed your dog chocolate.

What to do if your dog accidentally consumes chocolate.

Ah! Possibly the second most asked question of Google concerning dogs and chocolate.

First, don’t panic. Panic never helps.

Second, figure out as best you can how much chocolate and what type Rusty has consumed and how long ago it happened. These are important questions, and the vet will ask you the same.

If Rusty is an adult Golden Retriever and ate 3 M&Ms, 26 hours ago and he is still without any symptoms, it seems doubtful you need to worry.

In general, though, the darker and more bitter the chocolate the greater the danger. Just keep that in mind.

As the amount increases and the time is more recent and etc etc… the likelier it is that you’ll want to get Rusty to the vet to be sure of the best outcome.

Symptoms to watch for:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased body temperature
  • Increased reflex responses
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Rapid breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Advanced signs (cardiac failure, weakness, and coma)

Rusty does not need to exhibit all of these symptoms. Just one is enough to warrant a call to the vet and likely a visit.

This is a good time to suggest you know who and where your emergency vet is. During an emergency is not the time to determine where you are going. OK?

What Are Emergency Veterinarians?

An emergency vet is a veterinarian who specializes in emergency situations. Some regular vets also have an emergency service, but most do not. They are open regular hours, not late nights, and they see pets by appointment.

In some rural areas, your regular vet can be called with an emergency if there isn’t another local option. But you need to know if your vet is one of ‘those’ vets. I have two stories concerning emergency vets; Trey and Tova.

If your personal family vet is not also an emergency vet or ‘after hours’ vet, please find the one that is local to you. When I was in need of an emergency vet this last time, I was able to be on the phone with them and get directions and let them know when I was pulling up to their door.

Two technicians met me at the car with a rolling table to transport my dog, Trey. Once they stabilized him, and we talked about options, he was referred to a surgeon down the road and I transported him there.

Technicians from that clinic also met me in the parking lot with a rolling table, but as he was stabilized, we just went back to the kennels and got Trey checked in.

So, think of an emergency vet as the ER in a hospital. They move quickly and deal with life and death, stabilizing and helping Moms/Dads make decisions and make referrals when necessary.

Trey had a surgery and he and I went back and forth daily for a couple months to the surgeon.

Another suggestion, based on experience; don’t let your car get low on fuel. Keep the tank half full or better. Make sure you have enough fuel to get where you need to go should an emergency arise. Refer to my post about Tova to understand this necessity.

I hope this information has been helpful and that you are not currently in the middle of a potential emergency. knowledge is power. The more we all know and know what to expect, the better prepared we all are.

Chocolate is not a good treat for dogs. But that just means there’s more for us!

Please feel free to share this article wherever you think people can benefit from it.

Pet Poison Helpline (800) 213-6680


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