Skip to main content

How to keep your dog safe from chocolate and what to do when they eat it

Chocolate is poison for dogs. This is what you should do to keep them away from it

Some human foods, such as carrot sticks, berries, and a small piece of cheese, are all perfectly safe for dogs in moderation. Other foods, however, should never be shared with your pup. Foods containing garlic, onions, or chocolate are firmly on the list of forbidden fur baby snacks. As a pet parent, it’s your job to keep your animals safe and healthy, which means keeping them out of the cabinets.

There are a few things you can do to achieve this, but every dog manages to steal a piece of chocolate or two at some point — whether off the counter or on the street. This is especially true around chocolate-themed holidays, like Valentine's Day or Christmas. Here's a rundown of how to help, when to call the vet, and (perhaps most importantly) what not to do when your dog eats chocolate.




15 minutes

What You Need

  • Sturdy containers

  • Activated charcoal

  • Hydrogen peroxide

A chocolate Labrador retriever licks their lips with their nose close to the camera
Janet / Adobe Stock

Is chocolate toxic to dogs and how much will it take to harm him?

Yup, but there are actually two reasons why. According to Pet Life Today‘s Dr. Jennifer Coates, a veterinarian, “The toxic components in chocolate are stimulants called methylxanthines, specifically theobromine and caffeine.” Theobromine, the chemical component in chocolate that causes the bulk of its toxicity in dogs, may result in clinical symptoms such as the following:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Panting
  • Restlessness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures
  • Increased heart rate
  • Heart failure

While chocolate is never safe for a dog, the fatal amount largely depends on your dog’s size, weight, and additional health factors. Puppies, senior dogs, small breeds, and dogs with preexisting medical conditions have a greater chance of dying after eating chocolate. On average, a fatal dose of theobromine ranges from 100 to 500 milligrams per kilogram (or 2.2 pounds) of body weight. Dark chocolate contains a much more concentrated amount of theobromine than milk or white chocolate, making it much more lethal to your pooch.

You can use this free calculator from PetMD to determine chocolate’s toxicity levels on your pooch.

A beige terrier reaches for a heart-shaped box of chocolates while a woman keeps it out of her dog's reach
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Here's how to keep dogs safe from chocolate

Step 1: Keep human treats sealed and away.

Find a dog-free area and declare it a chocolate zone. The best places are ones that Fido can never get to like inside the fridge or in a high cabinet.

Step 2: Buy dog-safe "chocolate."

Consider substituting carob, which is a dog-friendly ingredient. You can even feed it to them as a treat in small quantities!

Step 3: Clean up and store leftovers carefully.

Having a designated chocolate spot works well, but after picking out a few choice truffles for dessert, you'll have to pack up the box. Don't leave a half-eaten bar out where your agile pup might take it. Use sturdy containers for leftovers, like Tupperware, not plastic bags that he can easily chew through.

Step 4: Stay extra alert on walks.

It's not just you who could accidentally provide your dog with this snack. Especially around high-chocolate times like Valentine's Day, Easter, and Halloween, he may sniff out chocolate on the street or in yards.

A brown dachshund eats Valentine's chocolate on the kitchen counter
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What to do when your dog eats chocolate

As we said at the top, even the best pet parent might find their pooch eyes deep in a heart-shaped box. It happens! So, what should you do if your dog eats chocolate? Your first step, according to the American Kennel Club is contacting your veterinarian. If your dog requires help after hours, contact the 24/7 Animal Poison Control Center at (855) 764-7661 immediately.

Your vet may instruct you to bring your dog into the clinic for treatment. Unfortunately, there is no proven antidote to theobromine poisoning. Instead, supportive care measures are used to treat symptoms of toxicity. To ensure the best possible outcome, your vet will most likely attempt to empty your dog’s stomach by using emetics to induce vomiting.

Thankfully, we have some good news. Dogs who receive prompt veterinary assistance generally have a good prognosis and don’t suffer any lasting side effects.

A woman holds a bunny-shaped box of Easter chocolates while her fluffy, beige dog investigates
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What not to do if your dog eats chocolate

Because it may take anywhere from 2 to 24 hours after ingestion for chocolate to impact your dog, you should never assume that your fur baby will recover without veterinary intervention simply because he isn’t displaying clinical symptoms right away.

Activated charcoal, a common home remedy for treating chocolate ingestion in dogs, should never be used without veterinary supervision. According to ASPCApro, mixing chocolate and charcoal can lead to a potentially fatal condition called hypernatremia.

Another home remedy is inducing vomiting with hydrogen peroxide. However, too much peroxide can actually worsen your dog’s symptoms. If there are no emergency clinics in your area, someone from the poison control helpline may instruct you to administer an emetic at home. You’ll want to follow their specific instructions and take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Each year, chocolate makes the Top 10 list of reasons why pet parents contact poison control hotlines. To avoid potentially fatal consequences, you should always keep toxic foods, household cleaning items, medication (including vitamins and supplements), and pest control products under lock and key.

If you suspect your dog has eaten something toxic, contact your vet or poison control immediately. Just because he isn’t displaying symptoms doesn’t mean he isn’t ill. When it comes to your pet’s health, a prompt response is always best.

Editors' Recommendations

Mary Johnson
Mary Johnson is a writer and photographer from New Orleans, Louisiana. Her work has been published in PawTracks and…
Why do dogs’ anal glands fill up? Here’s what to know
How often you may need to take your pup to the vet to relieve this issue
A small dog sits on the table at a vet office

In pet ownership, as in all life, you run into hurdles. Some dogs never have an issue with their anal glands, but they can come as a surprise to even veteran owners who suddenly see or smell something off. Unfortunately, you'll quickly discover how difficult (and gross) these little sacs can be. But dogs with particularly tricky bathroom issues will require a little maintenance and extra attention to the butt area.
What are anal glands?
There's no delicate way to say this: They're two smallish glands on either side of your pet's butthole. From an evolutionary perspective, the anal glands give off a unique scent, and the idea is that it acts as a canine's signature. Anal glands aren't analogous to anything we have as humans, so definitely don't worry about your own body expressing anything like this. However, many pups wind up having issues in this department and find themselves unable to empty them on their own.
Why do dogs' anal glands fill up?
Certain underlying problems, like obesity and poor diet, might make a dog more susceptible to gland issues. Smaller breeds also tend to struggle a bit more since their whole area is more compact. You may find your pooch expressing their own glands, licking the area, or scooting. That means it's time for an inspection.

How do you prevent anal gland issues?
Talk to your vet about what could be causing Fido's difficulties, as it can vary, but generally, you'll want to look at how much food and exercise they're getting. Additionally, a supplement, like a probiotic, will frequently take care of the issue. This works mostly by firming up the poop but can also introduce good bacteria to his gut.

Read more
4 ways to uplift your dog’s mental health and why it’s so important
How to keep your dog's mental health at its best
A golden retriever chasing a ball

You may not see it overnight, but the pet industry is changing. Owners and professionals alike are watching pets become part of the family instead of simple companions. People are putting more effort into taking care of their pet's health, both physical and mental, which is great news!

Pet mental health is a new topic that's taking the spotlight thanks to these changes, which is why we asked Renee Rhoades, the head behavior consultant at R+Dogs, about the importance of your dog's mental health. There are plenty of simple things you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy, and some of them may already be part of your routine! If not, this guide will walk you through what simple changes you can make to improve your dog's mental health.

Read more
Why do you often find your dog with their tongue out? Here’s what vets say about the ‘blep’
This behavior may be cute, but what does it really mean?
A German shepherd puppy sticks out their tongue

There's nothing cuter than a "blep" but what does it mean? Whether you first heard the term blep on the internet (it is meme-worthy, after all), or are learning of it for the first time, you're in for a treat. Bleps are positively adorable. The term started gaining online traction in the late 2010s, though it's no less popular today. The common canine behavior it's based on, however, is a habit as old as time: sticking out a tongue. Yep, a dog with its tongue out is enough to break the internet!

It's pretty dang cute, after all, but it's not always easy to figure out why a dog's tongue is sticking out. Don't worry though, pet parents — this is a great place to start. This is everything you need to know about bleps and what they mean.

Read more