Chocolate and Pets

Many pet owners wonder if chocolate is bad for dogs, and if so, just how bad. It’s a common question, and one that is important to understand especially as we head into the holidays where chocolate treats abound. From Halloween’s plethora of candy, to rich Thanksgiving desserts, and all of the goodies that come with Christmas, Hanukkah, and all of the winter holidays, it’s good to know the answers to these key questions.

Is Chocolate Bad for Dogs?

The short answer to this question is yes. Chocolate (and any form of cocoa, even your hot cocoa that’s so comforting on a cold winter day) contains caffeine and and a naturally occurring stimulant called theobromine which is toxic to dogs. Smaller dogs need to ingest less in order to experience symptoms, while larger dogs can sometimes get lucky if the only ingest a small amount and experience only mild discomfort and tummy upset.

What About Cats?

Cats can also be prone to chocolate toxicity, however it’s much less common as cats are not quite as sensitive as dogs are to cocoa, and they are also far less likely to eat sweets than their canine counterparts who are notoriously less picky eaters. In any case, if your dog or cat gets into chocolate, it’s always best to act before they start showing symptoms.

Symptoms of Chocolate Toxicity

Small amounts of chocolate in relation to your pet’s size can cause an increased heart rate, as well as mild to moderate stomach upset. Larger amounts can cause more severe symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. And in cases where the pet has ingested a significant amount, in severe cases it can lead to death. Compromised animals such as the elderly and those with liver and/or kidney issues can have an even greater reaction to the smallest amounts of chocolate ingested.

Do Different Kinds of Chocolate Affect My Dog Differently?

Yes, as there are different amounts of the chemical that dogs and cats are sensitive to in different kinds of chocolate. Chocolate Toxicity article by Trupanion includes a great chart below that highlights common kinds of chocolate and the corresponding amounts of theobromine.

Types of Chocolate

And remember, the amount it will take to affect your pet is relative to their size and health conditions, so if you suspect you pet has gotten into chocolate it’s always best to get veterinary attention before symptoms appear.