Is Chocolate Poisonous to Dogs? Learn the Risks and Signs

We sure love our dogs ‑ they bring so much love and joy into our lives. Sometimes, though, little accidents happen when they get into things they shouldn't — like a box of chocolates or a delicious chocolate bar you were saving for dessert. But did you know that chocolate is toxic to dogs?

Why Is Chocolate Bad for Pets?

In chocolate manufacturing, fermented and roasted cocoa beans are ground into a fine dark brown paste called cocoa mass (also known as cocoa liquor). Both dark chocolate and milk chocolate contain cocoa mass, and cocoa mass contains two compounds that are not good for pets. These compounds are called theobromine and caffeine. Both of these compounds can speed up the heart rate and stimulate the nervous system of dogs and cats because they can’t metabolize theobromine and caffeine as well as humans can. Dogs can also become ill from the fat and sugar in chocolate, especially white chocolate.

What Is The Worst Kind of Chocolate for Dog?

The risk of your pet becoming sick from ingesting chocolate depends on the type and amount of chocolate consumed and the weight of the animal. The concentrations of these toxic substances vary among different types of chocolates, but generally speaking, the darker the chocolate, the more cocoa mass and the more theobromine and caffeine it contains.
Here are a few types of chocolate listed in order of theobromine content:
  1. Cocoa powder (most toxic – 100% cocoa)
  2. Unsweetened baker’s chocolate (100% cocoa mass)
  3. Bittersweet chocolate (approx. 66% to 90% cocoa content or higher)
  4. Semisweet chocolate (approx. 40% to 65% cocoa content)
  5. Milk chocolate (10% to 40% cocoa content)
  6. White chocolate (the least toxic, because it does not contain cocoa mass, only cocoa butter, but it has high fat and sugar content). 

How Much Chocolate Is Poisonous for Dogs?

Knowing how much and what kind of chocolate your dog or cat has eaten can help you and your vet determine if you have an emergency. In simple terms, a very concerning dose of chocolate is approximately one ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight.
A medium-sized dog weighing 50 pounds would only need to eat 1 ounce of pure baker’s chocolate (100% cocoa mass), or 9 ounces of milk chocolate, to potentially show signs of poisoning.

Even though white chocolate does not contain cocoa mass, it still contains high amounts of fat and sugar that can make your pet sick.

What are the signs of chocolate poisoning?

Signs of chocolate poisoning usually appear within 6 to 12 hours after your dog has consumed chocolate, and may last up to 72 hours. Symptoms include the following:
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness and panting
  • Increased urination
  • Tremors
  • Elevated or abnormal heart rate
  • Seizures (and worse)


If you know or suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, contact your vet immediately. And always make sure you keep your chocolate treats a safe distance from your pets!