Are different types of chocolate equally bad for your dog?

Have you ever wondered if all types of chocolate are equally bad for your dog? If yes you are not alone. People know that, in general, chocolate is toxic to dogs. However, there are 4 different types of chocolate, and each can have a slightly different impact on your pup.

It all comes down to the cocoa content, the amount of sugar and fats, and other ingredients. The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the greater the danger for your dog.

Whatever the type, if your dog accidentally ate some chocolate you should seek immediate veterinary assistance.

Please, as a vet, I’m begging you, at least call your veterinary clinic if your dog ate any type of chocolate 🤷‍♀️

But since you landed on this page, here’s what’s in this guide:

While I am a veterinarian, this article is not intended to replace professional veterinary advice. If you have any medical concerns about your pet, consult your vet immediately. Always seek professional assistance if you are unsure of your pet’s health.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information.

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Why is chocolate bad for dogs?

There are a few human foods you should be aware of that are toxic to dogs, and chocolate is one of them.

Chocolate is made from roasted cocoa beans. Cocoa comes from the cocoa tree Theobroma cacao. It’s grown by farmers in tropical climates, and its seed pods are manually harvested and processed to extract the beans. These cocoa beans are ground and turned into chocolate liquor, which is further processed to make chocolate products.

Cocoa beans contain methylxanthines, especially theobromine, an alkaloid toxic to animals. Fortunately for us humans (hello fellow chocoholics 🤗), we can metabolize methylxanthines and they don’t cause us any health issues. However, dogs (and a few other pet animals) are not so lucky.

Theobromine can cause severe health problems and even be fatal if ingested in high enough amounts.

The amounts of methylxanthines in different chocolate types and products vary. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is for pets. So baking chocolate and dark chocolate are the most dangerous.

Furthermore, there’s an individual sensitivity to methylxanthines. We don’t know exactly why, but some dogs can tolerate chocolate better, while some quickly develop signs of poisoning after eating it.

And did you know that chocolate also contains caffeine? The higher the percentage of cocoa solids, the higher the caffeine content. And as you probably guessed, caffeine is also toxic to dogs.

Now that you know why chocolate is bad for your pup, let’s examine the different types and their impact on dogs.

4 different types of chocolate and their toxicity

Dark chocolate:

The first chocolate type is dark chocolate, which contains the most cocoa beans. It has the highest amount of theobromine and is therefore more dangerous than other types. It also contains a lot of caffeine. Just a small bit of dark chocolate can cause an upset stomach, vomiting, and even death.

According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, dark chocolate contains 50-90% cocoa solids and cocoa butter. They also estimate that two ounces (56.7 g) of 70% dark chocolate can contain up to 50-60 mg of caffeine. In comparison, a cup of coffee contains about 100-200 milligrams of caffeine. That is quite a large amount for a dog.

Baking chocolate has an incredibly high cocoa content and should never be given to your pup under any circumstances. Not only will it make them sick, but it could also result in fatal chocolate poisoning if consumed in larger amounts.

A general rule is the darker and more bitter the chocolate, the greater the danger for your dog.

Milk chocolate:

Second on the list is milk chocolate, which is the most common chocolate type. Milk chocolate contains up to 50% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, milk, and sugar. Due to lower cocoa content, it is not as toxic as dark chocolate.

However, it can still be dangerous. It all depends on the exact amount of cocoa, how much your dog ate, and how sensitive he is to theobromine.

White chocolate:

Then there is white chocolate which isn’t actually chocolate at all. It’s made with cocoa butter, sugar, milk, and sometimes vanilla, but it doesn’t contain any chocolate solids. Cocoa butter contains only traces of caffeine and theobromine, so it’s relatively safe.

It may not be as toxic to dogs as the other chocolate types, but it can still pose a risk to your pup. It contains high amounts of fat and sugar that can cause more or less severe digestive issues if consumed in higher quantities. High amounts of fat can also trigger severe pancreatitis in dogs, so be careful.

Ruby chocolate:

Ruby chocolate was developed in 2017 by Barry Callebaut, a Belgian–Swiss cocoa company. They claim that it is made from “Ruby cocoa beans“.

There is still an ongoing discussion if ruby chocolate really is the 4th variety of chocolate or just a clever marketing campaign.

According to US Food and Drug Administration standards, ruby chocolate must contain a minimum of 1.5% nonfat cacao solids and a minimum of 20% by weight of cacao fat.

While the exact production method is a trade secret, it is made from existing botanical cocoa bean varieties. It has also been proven that ruby chocolate contains methylxanthines. This makes it toxic to pets.

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How much theobromine is toxic to dogs

There are huge individual differences, however, according to ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center the lethal dose for theobromine poisoning is 100 to 200 mg/kg, but it can be lower in some cases. 

Already 20 mg/kg of theobromine and caffeine can cause mild clinical signs. 

Some dogs exhibit severe clinical symptoms after ingesting 40-50 mg/kg of theobromine, while 60mg/kg can cause seizures in some cases. 

To put it in perspective, less than 1 oz of milk chocolate/lb (2 oz/kg) is potentially lethal to your pup. 

Signs of theobromine poisoning in dogs

Some of the most common symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, panting, hyperexcitability, muscle tremors, seizures, and coma. Death may occur from cardiac or respiratory failure.

If your pup ate chocolate, call your veterinarian immediately. Try to give him as much information as you can. He needs to know what kind of chocolate your dog ate, the estimated amount, and how long ago he ate it.

How long does it take for symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs to appear?

It can take between 6 and 12 hours for your dog to develop symptoms. By this time the chocolate has already left his stomach and inducing vomiting will no longer help him. Your pup needs medical attention and supportive therapy to recover.

If you know that your dog ate chocolate, contact your vet immediately. Don’t wait to see if he’ll show signs of poisoning or not. If you wait and it turns out that he is one of those dogs sensitive to theobromine, you wasted precious hours. By the time you realize how bad it is, it can be already too late.

Therapy of theobromine poisoning in dogs

There is no antidote to theobromine poisoning.

Your vet might try to induce vomiting to remove as much chocolate as possible from your pup’s stomach. Otherwise, the therapy is supportive and depends on the severity of the poisoning.

The standard supportive therapy consists of the administration of active charcoal, intravenous fluids, and oxygen (if needed).

I know there are a few methods how to induce vomiting at home. Please don’t do it alone. At least call your vet and ask him if it’s a safe option for your pup.

Can a dog survive chocolate poisoning without treatment?

Well, that depends. We know that there is an individual sensitivity to methylxanthines. This means that while some dogs can tolerate higher amounts, others get serious signs after digesting even small amounts of chocolate.

The problem is, you don’t know how your dog will react. It’s always better to call your vet and have your dog checked out. 

Your vet might induce vomiting and thus remove the chocolate from your pup’s stomach. This might sound harsh, and to be honest it is not a nice procedure for everyone involved. But it’s better than the intensive care unit in case your dog is highly sensitive to methylxanthines 🤷‍♀️

As you can see, a chocolate treat for your pup is never a good idea!

When it comes to chocolate, prevention is better than cure. To keep your pooch safe, always store chocolate and cocoa products out of his reach.

There is always an increase in chocolate poisoning cases during big holidays. Chocolate is a huge temptation for your dog. 

If you want to keep your dog safe during Halloween and Christmas, you have to remember to store it safely from your pup’s reach.

To sum it up, chocolate contains methylxanthines and caffeine, which are both toxic to pets. The amount of theobromine in chocolate products varies, depending on how much cocoa they contain.

The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is for your dog. So the most dangerous type of chocolate is dark chocolate, with its characteristically high cocoa content. White chocolate is considered to be an insignificant source of theobromine. However, it contains a lot of fat, which can cause pancreatitis and other health problems in dogs.

If your pup ate chocolate, call your vet right away. Provide the clinician with as much information as possible about the quantity and type of chocolate he ate.

Prevention is the key, so be sure to store chocolate away from your pup! ☺️

That’s it from me. Happy pet parenting! ❣️☺️

PS: If you are as crazy about animals as I am and want to get more pet health tips, subscribe to my newsletter! Now you will get a free pet planner as a bonus 🤗


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