It is a complicated question! Is it safe for my 60lb yellow Lab to eat two squares of Baker’s chocolate? NO! That could be life-threatening. Is it safe for my 15 lb Shih Tzu to eat two squares of my milk chocolate coated candy bar? Not cool! That was MY candy bar! But not life-threatening.
Chocolate can be dangerous for dogs. The amount of toxicity chocolate causes depends on the level of cocoa in the chocolate and the size of the dog that has eaten the chocolate. Theobromine and caffeine are the chemicals in the cocoa that can be toxic to dogs. But a lot of the focus is on the theobromine content.
Theobromine affects the nervous, cardiovascular and respiratory systems of people and dogs. Toxicity occurs in dogs because it circulates in the bloodstream so much longer before it can be broken down by the liver. The half-life of theobromine (the amount of time it takes for half of the theobromine to be metabolized by the liver) is only 2-3 hours in people. The half-life of theobromine in dogs is 18 hours. If a dog consumes too much chocolate, an owner may notice signs such as hyperexcitability, excessive panting, difficulty walking, muscle twitching, vomiting and even seizures. Symptoms such as high heart rates and abnormal heart rhythms are not as obvious. Severe symptoms include seizures and death.
The more cocoa there is in a chocolate product, the more dangerous it is. Cocoa powder and Baker’s chocolate have much higher levels of cocoa than milk chocolate. Chocolate syrups and flavourings have less. Candies and bars coated in chocolate are also lower in cocoa than a solid bar. White chocolate is basically cocoa butter and sugar and contains very little theobromine.
If you have noticed that your dog has eaten a product containing chocolate, it is ALWAYS a good idea to call a veterinary professional (like Centennial Animal Hospital) to check if the amount of chocolate consumed is toxic or not. You can reach us at 204-269-8162.
Written by: Tara, RVT
(1) Fiona Finlay, and Simon Guiton, Journal List, BMJ, v.331(7517); 2005 Sep 17