dog eating chocolate

Chocolate poisoning in dogs: what to do if your dog eats chocolate

There’s nothing better than breaking off a chunk of your favourite chocolate bar and enjoying the smooth, rich taste of melt-in-the-mouth indulgence.

But if you’re a dog owner, it’s vital to remember that chocolate can be highly toxic to your canine companion – and with Halloween and Christmas fast approaching, it’s time for an important reminder.

Dogs and chocolate: the risks

Chocolate poisoning is one of the most common causes of poisoning in dogs, and can lead to illness and even death. If you suspect your dog has ingested chocolate, you should contact your vet immediately.

We will look at the symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs, how to prevent your dog from eating chocolate and what to do in the event of an emergency.

Most dogs eat things they’re not supposed to – particularly inquisitive puppies. As a dog owner, you need to be aware of the substances that are toxic to your dog, and do everything you can to keep them out of their reach.

Did you know…

Chocolate is made from the roasted seeds of the cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao) which contain two substances that are toxic to animals: caffeine and theobromine. Ingesting either substance can be serious – and even fatal – for your dog.

Spotting the signs and symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs

The symptoms of chocolate poisoning take between 6 and 12 hours to appear, by which time the cocoa in the chocolate may have done your dog some serious damage. Without treatment, chocolate poisoning can lead to weakness, coma and even heart failure, so it’s vital to act fast if you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate.

Signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs

  • Sickness
  • Diarrhoea
  • Drooling
  • Rapid breathing
  • Increased temperature
  • Increased heart rate
  • Muscle stiffness or tremors
  • Hyperactivity
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Seizures

“Without treatment, chocolate poisoning can lead to weakness, coma and even heart failure, so it’s vital to act fast if you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate.”

Avoiding chocolate poisoning in dogs

We’re not suggesting you give up chocolate when you get a dog, but if you or your family enjoy a little chocolate indulgence, it’s vital to keep it well out of your dog’s reach. This means avoiding chocolates hanging from your Christmas tree as your dog can easily remove them. Never leave chocolate bars, biscuits or cake lying around; this will tempt your dog – remember a dog will smell chocolate even if it’s wrapped as a present so if you’re giving chocolate as a gift this year, be careful where you keep it. Store all chocolate in a secure tin, well out of your pet’s reach, and be safe in the knowledge that you can enjoy the occasional treat without putting your dog at risk.

Need any more advice?

For expert advice on dogs eating chocolate, get in touch with your local vet. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.