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Valentine's Day: This is Why Chocolate is Bad for Dogs

It’s pretty well known that chocolate is a bad Valentine’s Day gift for dogs; but why is it bad for them, and what happens if they eat it?

The toxic substance in chocolate is called theobromine (although all the fat and sugar in chocolate could lead to pancreatitis, even if the theobromine wasn’t toxic to dogs). In general, the darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains. For example, baking chocolate has a high concentration between 130-450 mg of theobromine per ounce, while milk chocolate only has about 44-58 mg per ounce.

For reference, that would mean that a 50-pound dog could show signs of poisoning after eating about 1 ounce of baking chocolate, or 9 ounces of milk chocolate.  

Signs that your dog may have chocolate poisoning depend on how much he ate and what kind it was. Some things to watch for:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Increased thirst
  • Panting or restlessness
  • Excessive urination
  • Racing heart


Since the signs of chocolate poisoning can take hours to develop and can last for days, it is important to call your veterinarian right away if you think your dog may have eaten chocolate. If possible, be prepared to tell them what kind of chocolate it was and how much you think your dog ate.


The good news is, the prognosis is often very good. Your veterinarian can treat chocolate poisoning, or even prevent it if you can get there soon enough. Treatment may include inducing vomiting and using oral compounds that can block the theobromine from being absorbed. If a dog already has toxic levels of chocolate in his system, he may need to be hospitalized for IV fluids, medication and monitoring.

To confuse the issue, some gourmet dog treats have carob as a chocolate substitute, and some bakeries even use small, potentially harmless amounts of milk chocolate in their dog treats. But the safest option is to avoid chocolate in any amount, and spoil your dog in other ways!

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