Dogs are known for their love of eating. You will not find a dog owner who has not had to deal with their pooch drooling and begging right at their feet while they eat dinner. It’s hard to deny the shiny puppy eyes when you know exactly what they want.

If you have raised a puppy then you have probably heard that it’s not good to feed them chocolate. But why is chocolate bad for dogs?

chocolate lab

How do you resist those big brown eyes? (Photo credit: Jason Mrachina)

A Little Background

Chocolate is a smooth and tasty treat made from the fruit of the cacao tree. The bitter bean goes through a long process that transforms it into a delicious treat. There are two substances in chocolate that are important to discuss when it comes to its effect on dogs - caffeine and theobromine. These two substances are known as alkaloids. Theobromine is the ingredient in chocolate that is responsibility for its toxicity in certain animals.

A human’s body can easily metabolize the theobromine that is found in chocolate. Dogs on the other hand, cannot metabolize this substance and it will stay in their system for up to 20 hours. Even a small amount of chocolate could cause diarrhea, vomiting, uncontrolled urination, and nervousness. If a large amount of chocolate is eaten by man’s best friend, the animal could experience seizures and possibly death.

How Much Chocolate is Dangerous?

There are two factors that come into play when deciphering how much chocolate a dog can ingest without risking death.

Type of Chocolate

First off, the type of chocolate matters because different varieties have different amounts of cocoa. Chocolate that has more cocoa contains more theobromine. Generally, the darkness of the chocolate will give you a general idea on how much cocoa is in a piece of chocolate. There is more cocoa in darker chocolate.

White chocolate has little to no theobromine because it’s only made with cocoa butter, milk, and sugar. There is no cocoa liquor in it.

Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, unsweetened baking chocolate, and dry cocoa powder all contain significant amounts of cocoa and theobromine.

Here’s a look at the amount of theobromine per ounce of chocolate:

  • White chocolate: insignificant
  • Milk chocolate: 44-64mg per ounce
  • Semi sweet or dark chocolate: 150-160mg per ounce
  • Unsweetened chocolate: 450mg per ounce
  • Cocoa powder: 800mg per ounce

Size of the Dog

Secondly, the size of the dog comes into play. On average, the toxic dosage of theobromine has been 100-200mg per 2.2lbs. There have been problems reported at doses much lower though. Even doses as low as 20mg have caused issues in small dogs.

White chocolate is generally safe for a dog to consume. This does not mean that you can feed it as a treat. There is a lot of sugar and caffeine that will make a pooch very hyper and nervous.

Milk chocolate is poisonous if a dog consumes more than one ounce per pound of their body weight.

Dark chocolate will become poisonous at one ounce per three pounds of body weight. Unsweetened chocolate is one ounce for every nine pounds of body weight.

Different dogs will experience different symptoms if they eat chocolate. As a general rule of thumb, you should keep your dog away from all chocolates at all times. If your dog consumes chocolate you should get in touch with a veterinarian as soon as possible.