Perhaps the cutest thing in the world (or most annoying, if you’re a cat person like me) is having a dog stare at you while you enjoy food that it simply cannot have. Even though you’re welcome to throw out any of these foods to your pup so they can enjoy it with you, chocolate remains to be a huge red flag for any pet owner. We’ve all been told that dogs shouldn’t have chocolate, but we’re never really told why.

If you’re a feline-lover, don’t worry. The same thing applies to them, so listen up.


Photo by Christin Urso

It all comes down to something called methylxanthines, which is a compound that pets cannot break down in their bodies. It sounds scary, but you likely consume one type in your everyday cuppa Joe – a stimulant none other than caffeine. Chocolate contains both caffeine and theobromine, which is also a methylxanthine, but thankfully our bodies have an enzyme that can process both of them.

The same can’t be said for lil Fido, however, where just a few bites of chocolate can overstimulate his or her nervous system and cause an irregular heartbeat, dehydration, and seizures – and that only scratches the surface. The first symptoms that show up are diarrhea and vomiting, though you should definitely stay aware and call for help if you think your pet had any.

A general rule of thumb is the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is. Dark chocolate contains the most methylxanthines, white contains the least, and milk chocolate is right in the middle. These compounds aren’t only found in hard chocolate, but in cocoa powder as well, which has almost twice the amount of theobromine than solid chocolate.


Photo by Katherine Baker

Looks like your faithful pup or feline won’t be able to experience the world of chocolate, but you can still offer them dessert, sans-cocoa. Make sure you don’t leave any snacking chocolate in a place that your pet can easily access, but if you’re able to finish an entire bar in one sitting, then more power to you. Just always be aware and ask a vet when in doubt – pets lives matter, too.