Health & Wellness
Of all the taboo foods for dogs, chocolate might be the most notorious no-no. The sad irony, of course, is that chocolate is one of the most beloved comfort foods for humans. And while we may want to share that goodness with our furry friends, the fact of the matter is, cocoa and canines don’t mix — for good reason.
The main reason chocolate isn’t safe for dogs is simply the ingredients in cacao. According to Dr. Jamie Richardson, head of veterinary medicine at Small Door Veterinary’s New York City location, chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, which dogs can’t metabolize in the same way as humans.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s baked or raw, dark or milk, it’s all on the “do not feed” list – no exceptions! Even chocolate ice cream and other foods that contain chocolate is not safe for your dog.
“The more consumed and the darker the chocolate, the higher the cocoa content and the more dangerous it is for your dog,” Dr. Richardson explains. “The severity also depends on the dog’s size — a smaller dog can tolerate less chocolate than a larger dog.”
Even a little bit of chocolate can cause diarrhea and vomiting. It can also trigger unnatural stimulants in dogs (aka expect to see hyperactivity if consumed by accident). A large amount of chocolate, meanwhile, can have much more severe effects, including seizures and even death.
If a large dog has only consumed a small amount of chocolate, like a plain cookie containing milk chocolate chips, they may suffer mild gastrointestinal upset, but it’s still best to call your veterinarian in all cases of chocolate consumption.
Dr. Richardson adds that while white chocolate doesn’t contain cocoa, it’s still high in sugar and fat and may still cause mild gastrointestinal upset, vomiting or diarrhea.
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If your sweet-toothed pup wants a treat without nasty side effects, one good option is carob. It’s still slightly sweet, with a dark and earthy flavor akin to chocolate, but it’s totally free of the caffeine and theobromine found in cocoa.
While you shouldn’t go feeding your bestie a fistful of carob chips, adding a little bit to their food is perfectly fine. There are even specialty shops and bakeries that bake dog-friendly treats with carob — but be sure to find out what ingredients are included in each treat. When in doubt, consult your vet before adding any new treats to your pet’s diet.
It’s important to act fast if you think your dog may have gotten into the cookie jar (metaphorically or literally!) considering the toxicity for our furry. family members.
“You should contact your veterinarian for advice ASAP,” Dr. Richardson says. “Try to estimate how much your dog has ingested and keep hold of the packaging — this will help your veterinarian to assess the severity.”
You can also call the pet poison control hotline at (855) 764-7661 for advice (fee applies).
Chocolate is one of the most crave-able snacks for humans, but the key word is “humans.” As delicious and comforting as it is for us, chocolate has the opposite effect on our best friends, so in order to keep them safe and healthy, it’s best to keep the cocoa far away and out of reach.
We’re confident that chocolate isn’t the only human food your dog would love to sink their teeth into (cue the drool). Check out our series “Can dogs eat” to learn more about which human foods are off-limits and what’s fair game.
The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.
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