Fact Checker: Can Eating Chocolate Kill a Dog?

Fact Checker: Can Eating Chocolate Kill a Dog?

Myths, lies and old wives’ tales loom large in the outdoor pursuits. Here at MeatEater, we’re dedicated to separating facts from bullsh*t, so we created this series to examine suspect yarns. If there’s a belief, rumor, or long-held assumption you’d like us to fact check, drop us a note at factchecker@themeateater.com.

Claim
Chocolate is poisonous to dogs and can kill them if they consume too much.

Origin
This claim has been around for as long as chocolate bars and chocolate Labs have been a part of the American lifestyle. According to Vets Now, a veterinary information website, 94% of pet owners believe “chocolate is poisonous to dogs.”

Facts
Chocolate contains theobromine, which canines have trouble metabolizing but humans do not. A mild buildup of theobromine will lead to vomiting and diarrhea, and too much can cause muscle tremors, seizures, irregular heartbeat, internal bleeding, and heart attacks.

Dark chocolate contains much higher levels of theobromine than milk chocolate, so it takes far more of the light stuff to be lethal. To ingest a fatal amount of theobromine, a 75-pound Lab would need to eat six milk chocolate bars versus just two and a half dark chocolate bars.

Despite the serious consequences that chocolate poisoning can have, lethal incidents aren’t all that common according to Dr. Seth Bynum, a bird dog specialist at Lewistown Veterinary Clinic. He said it would take the perfect storm of a tiny dog, lots of dark chocolate, and a neglectful owner to cause death.

“I’ve never seen one die, and I don’t think anyone at this clinic has either,” Dr. Bynum said. “I’ve treated many dogs with chocolate exposure, but other than a bad case of the jitters and GI issues, they’ve all been OK.”

Takeaway
Accidents happen. If your dog gets into a big batch of chocolate, the best thing you can do is go to a vet right away. When caught early enough, they’ll be able to induce vomiting and curb most of the side effects. But if it’s only a few Hershey’s Kisses, your dog will probably just get the Hershey’s squirts.

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