What Happens When Dogs Eat Chocolate

For many humans, chocolate is pretty much heaven in your mouth and possibly worth going to hell for. However for dogs, death by chocolate isn't just a morbid way to name a dessert. As any responsible dog owner will tell you, chocolate can be a one-way ticket to Casket Town for canines, and the trip to the afterlife is a rough one. 

Mother Nature should have really thrown dogs a bone by making them hate the smell or taste of chocolate. But as Scientific American notes, they "have similar tastes to humans." Man's best friend has a sweet canine tooth, and since all of a dog's teeth are canine teeth, they would probably wolf down chocolate if given the chance. Unfortunately for man's best friend, that tempting confection contains two of a dog's worst enemies, neither of which are cats, surprisingly. Instead, the culprits are caffeine and theobromine.

Caffeine and theobromine occur naturally in cocoa trees. Both chemicals bind to cell receptors in humans and dogs, but the outcomes are drastically different across the two species. In humans, the cell-binding causes euphoria. Granted, there are people who have adverse reactions to eating chocolate, but usually, they're allergic to the ground-up cockroach parts that inevitably get mixed into the chocolate. (Yum). For dogs, it's a whole different ball game.  They don't sweat the bug bits, but the theobromine and caffeine cause diarrhea, seizures, muscle tremors, and a rapid heartbeat. 

To be clear, canines can tolerate some degree of chocolate in their system. The threat it poses will vary in relation to the type of chocolate that they hopefully aren't eating. For example, unsweetened baking chocolate has over six times as much theobromine as milk chocolate. The American Kennel Club helpfully compiled a list of the most toxic chocolates based on theobromine content. Cocoa powder tops the list, followed by unsweetened baking chocolate, semisweet chocolate, dark chocolate, and finally milk chocolate. According to VCA Hospitals, "white chocolate barely poses any threat of chocolate poisoning." However, the fat and sugar content could lead to pancreatitis. 

So while a milk chocolate Hershey's Kiss might not be the kiss of death for your dog, if you really want to give your pooch a smooch, it might be better just to use your lips.