Are All Chocolates Equally Bad for Dogs?

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You love all kinds of chocolate including dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate. You're wondering: if you accidentally drop a piece of one of these chocolates on the floor, could your dog get sick if they eat it? If so, which one will make them the sickest? Or does the type of chocolate not really matter?

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By learning about chocolate toxicity for the different types of chocolate, you can protect your pup, spot the signs that they've ingested chocolate, and know when it's time to take them to the veterinarian for immediate treatment.

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The types of chocolate and their toxicity

All chocolates are not equally bad for dogs.

Among all of them, the worst type of chocolate that your dog can ingest is dark chocolate. This is because it contains the most methylxanthines, which is a group of naturally occurring substances. You may have heard that chocolate contains theobromine, which is a methylxanthine derivative that's also found in tea, coffee, and soda. While human bodies can process theobromine pretty fast, dogs' bodies cannot — it reaches toxic levels inside their bodies and makes them sick.

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For dogs, methylxanthine can cause major liver damage and even death. Baking chocolate, cocoa powder, and dark chocolate bars are the most dangerous for dogs to consume. Just a small amount of any of these could greatly harm them.

Milk chocolate is still dangerous, but not as bad as dark chocolate because, it contains fewer methylxanthines. A dog would have to eat more milk chocolate than dark chocolate to feel sick.

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If your dog eats white chocolate, there is less of a chance of chocolate poisoning occurring because it only contains 0.25 mg of theobromine per ounce of chocolate.

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Other issues with chocolate

Sweetened chocolate will also contain sugar, which is bad for dogs because it can cause weight gain and other health issues. If you're eating sugar-free chocolate, it might be made with xylitol, a sugar-alcohol that's also toxic to dogs. Upon ingestion, your dog could experience a decrease in their blood sugar and severe liver damage. If you're eating chocolate-covered raisins, keep them far away from your dog, since raisins are one of the most toxic foods for dogs. A small number of raisins could cause kidney failure and death.

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Signs of chocolate poisoning

If you have a small dog, then just a small amount of chocolate could make them sick. If you have a big dog, they're more likely to eat large amounts of chocolate, which could also prove to be toxic. If your dog has accidentally eaten chocolate, then you may start to notice some symptoms.

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Your dog might vomit, have diarrhea, pant, become hyperactive, or have a seizure. They might also have an abnormal heart rate since the caffeine and theobromine in chocolate can cause a dog's heart rate to speed up.

How sick will my dog get?

The severity of your dog's chocolate poisoning will depend on how big they are, the type of chocolate they ate, and the amount they ingested. For instance, if your dog ate baking chocolate, 1 ounce of it per pound of their body weight could kill them. If your dog weighs 20 pounds, that means they only have to eat 2 ounces of it. With milk chocolate, 1 ounce per pound of your dog's body weight is enough to cause death.

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What to do if your dog eats chocolate

Even if your dog has a small amount of less toxic chocolate, it's best to call your veterinarian right away and ask them what to do. If your vet is closed, go to a pet emergency room or call the Pet Poison Helpline at ​800-213-6680​ for assistance.

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It's crucial you go in for treatment as soon as possible so your vet can give your dog activated charcoal to induce vomiting within two hours of ingestion. Other types of treatment could be required if too much time has passed and your dog's health issues are getting progressively worse.

In summary

Always keep chocolate stored in a safe place where your dog can't reach it, and never give it to children who could accidentally feed it to your pup. If your dog does eat chocolate, contact your veterinarian right away. With the right prevention and treatment should chocolate poisoning occur, you can protect your dog and ensure they live a long, happy, and healthy life.

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