Is It Safe for My Dog to Eat Chocolate?

Halloween is one of my favourite holidays. As a kid I remember the excitement of picking a costume, making trick or treating plans with my friends, and pet-proofing my candy stash once I got home afterwards.

When I was 13 years old, my first dog Toby John joined the family. From day 1, we knew he was going to cause trouble. One of Toby’s favourite things to do (and still is) was to get into things he wasn’t supposed too. Holidays like Halloween and Christmas were stressful when it came to Toby because we knew what he was capable of.

Growing up, my family and I knew that there were things that dogs were just not allowed to have; chocolate being a big one. But why is it so harmful? Do safe amounts of ingested chocolate exist? Are there some worse than others? What should I do if my dog does eat chocolate? I honestly didn’t know the answers to any of these questions until I went to college.

Milk chocolate, white chocolate, and dark chocolate are all very different when it comes to toxicity levels. These three chocolates have different levels of cocoa content, dark chocolate having the highest amount, therefore being the most toxic, and white/milk chocolate being the least. The problem with chocolate is that it contains theobromine (a chemical compound of the cocoa plant), which is metabolized very slowly in dogs, therefore causing the toxic level to build up in their system. Safe amounts vary due to size ranges in dogs, and the complexity of the different types of chocolate, so if your dog does eat chocolate, you should contact your vet right away. Small amounts of chocolate ingestion may result in vomiting and/or diarrhea. If the animal ingests significant amounts of theobromine, more sinister, life-threatening symptoms can occur. Luckily, Toby had only had diarrhea when he went on his chocolate excursions. But I still contacted his vet and kept a close eye.

Today as a soon to be 21-year-old, I am a dog mom to Toby John, who is now turning 8 this upcoming year, a 2-year-old Miniature Poodle named Baxter, and a 1-year-old Labrador Retriever named Daisy. Baxter and Daisy have taken after Toby, and are foreign body surgeries waiting to happen. It is important to keep them in an area that cannot be reached by all animals in the home. For me, I put them on top of my kitchen cabinets (not inside but above the cabinets altogether) or on the top shelf of my bedroom closet, making sure that my closet AND bedroom door is closed. My dogs have miraculously learned to open closet doors and jump up on countertops, even going as far as working as a team to get the things they want.

Ultimately, dogs are going to get into things they shouldn’t. It is important that we as pet owners adapt to their stubbornness and creativity, and take those measures to keep them safe. As I type this Baxter is probably shredding a blanket that is in his kennel, Daisy probably has the garbage tipped over and is eating last nights fish my boyfriend cooked, and Toby John may or may not have the closet door open and is desperately trying to get at his bones. But this Halloween season all I am going to be worrying about is what my dog’s costumes are going to be (hopefully).

If your pet does ingest chocolate or any candy this holiday season and is showing symptoms of potential toxicity, consult your veterinarian right away. Happy Halloween everyone!

Written By: Chelsea Corrigan, Veterinary Assistant