Chocolate is a holiday favorite for many people, whether it’s a box of holiday chocolates, cookies or a cup of hot cocoa, this sweet treat is a winter staple in many homes. While we might take advantage of the increase of chocolatey treats around the house, if you have a dog at home these treats can pose a serious risk to their health. Even though you might be tempted to share your holiday sweets with your dog, keeping this potentially lethal food away from them is the best way to make sure everyone has a safe and happy holiday.

Holiday Hazard

Too much chocolate might give us an upset stomach, but chocolate is actually toxic to pets, particularly dogs. That’s because chocolate contains two ingredients, caffeine and theobromine, that are aren’t dangerous to humans but are harmful to dogs. Unlike humans, who can quickly digest and metabolize this naturally occurring chemical, canines metabolize it much slower and as a result theobromine can stay in their systems for up to 18 hours. In this way, excessive chocolate can make dogs very sick and can be fatal in large doses.

Dogs may have different reactions based on their size and weight as well as the type of chocolate consumed. That’s because different chocolates have different amounts of theobromine concentrations. Baker’s chocolate and gourmet dark chocolate contain highly concentrated amounts of theobromine, often between 150 and 450 grams per ounce, while milk chocolate often has around 64 grams per ounce. However, as little as 20 grams can cause toxicosis to set in and symptoms to appear.

Signs and Symptoms

Theobromine is initially absorbed in a dog’s gastrointestinal tract, and because it stays in their system longer it can spread throughout their body affecting their respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous systems. Symptoms usually appear within six to 12 hours of consumption and include vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate and excessive thirst. If your dog has consumed a large amount of chocolate the symptoms may be more severe resulting in high blood pressure, muscle tremors or even seizures.

What to Do If Your Dog Eats Chocolate

If you think your dog has ingested chocolate, it’s important to contact a veterinarian immediately. Providing information like your dog’s weight as well as an estimation of how much chocolate they ate helps determine whether a toxic amount has been consumed. If it has, the vet can take steps to help remove the theobromine from your dog’s system by using medication to induce vomiting and administering active charcoal to help your dog’s body block the absorption of theobromine.

The best way to keep your dog healthy this holiday season is to make sure that you keep any chocolate out of reach of any curious canines. This helps ensure that you and your dog have a merry holiday season. Be sure to learn more about other holiday foods to avoid to keep your pets healthy. If you have more questions about your pet’s health call us at 513-738-9691 or email us at For more pet care tips, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or LinkedIn!

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