Most pet owners know that chocolate can be fatally toxic to their beloved pooch. In fact, even a small amount of chocolatey goodness has the potential to poison your pet. But with the increasing popularity of candy covered in white chocolate, from Hershey's kisses to Reese's peanut butter cups, some pet owners might wonder if it's possible that white chocolate can be Fido-friendly.
Can Dogs Eat White Chocolate?
Unfortunately, just like milk and dark chocolate, white chocolate is also off-limits to our four-legged friends. The reason is that all chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, and dogs can’t metabolize it the way humans can—so it can quickly build to toxic levels and even lead to death. Additionally, chocolate contains caffeine, which is another reason why it’s not safe to share with Rover.
However, the darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is for our pets. For example, baking chocolate and gourmet dark chocolate are highly concentrated and thus contain anywhere from 130 to 450 mg of theobromine per ounce, while common milk chocolate generally contains about 44 to 58 mg/ounce. Darker chocolates also tend to contain higher levels of caffeine.
White chocolate has significantly lower levels of theobromine, but it can still be dangerous for our dogs to snack on. By comparison, white chocolate only contains 0.25 mg of theobromine per ounce of chocolate…so when compared to milk or dark chocolate, white chocolate is probably the safest bet for pooches.
Dangers of White Chocolate for Dogs
However, that doesn’t mean if your dog accidentally snags some white chocolate that they’re in the clear—toxic doses of theobromine are reported to be as low as 20 mg/kg, so if your dog breaks into the cabinet and devours a stash of white chocolate candy, it’s absolutely possible that he or she can be poisoned.
If your dog consumes a dose of theobromine over 40 mg, they can experience cardiac issues including a racing heart rate, heart arrhythmias, or high blood pressure, while doses of more than 60 mg can lead to neurologic symptoms including tremors, twitching, and even seizures. Though fatal poisonings (which can cause dangerous conditions like cardiac arrest) are generally caused when dogs consume more that 200 mg, any of these conditions can lead to complications that cause fatalities. For that reason, consuming chocolate is a particular concern for older dogs, or those with preexisting conditions. But for dogs of any size, age, or breed, even white chocolate’s smaller amount of theobromine can lead to heart issues.
A dog has to ingest a large amount of white chocolate to experience true toxicity from theobromine, but other ingredients in white chocolate can pose serious issues for your four-legged family members, such as its high sugar content. In fact, many veterinarians would argue that it’s the fat and sugar in white chocolate that poses the most risk for our pets. For that reason, consuming white chocolate can cause symptoms in dogs including vomiting and diarrhea, and even more serious conditions like pancreatitis, a potentially fatal inflammation in the pancreas.
What to Do if Your Dog Eats White Chocolate
If your dog eats white chocolate (or any kind of chocolate), you’ll need to notify your veterinarian immediately, as monitoring your pet or waiting for symptoms can make it more difficult to effectively treat you dog. Be sure to tell your veterinarian the type of chocolate, amount of chocolate, and approximate weight of your dog. This will help your veterinarian determine the level of concern and severity of symptoms to expect. Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning can take several hours to develop but can last for days, thanks to the long half-life of theobromine.
The go-to treatment for chocolate consumption in dogs is often to induce vomiting as quickly as possible after the chocolate has been ingested, which is why time is of the essence—you’ll have to bring your pet to your veterinarian’s office or an animal hospital immediately. In mild cases of poisoning that may be the only treatment. In some cases, your veterinarian may administer activated charcoal to block the absorption of theobromine into the body and fluid therapy.
The sooner the theobromine is removed from their body, or your dog’s other symptoms from potential poisoning are stabilized, the better their prognosis will be.