Chocolate, the greatest food on earth! My wife and I munch our way through an unhealthy amount of the stuff each week, in fact I am sat here writing this with my German Shepherds looking longingly at the Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups I’m devouring. There is not a chance they will be getting anywhere near my precious Reece’s and while my waistline will not be thanking me for it, my dogs certainly should be.
Can German Shepherds Eat Chocolate? Absolutely not, chocolate is poisonous to German Shepherds and should not be fed to your dog. Although it would take several pounds of chocolate to kill a German Shepherd even a small amount can cause severe symptoms within hours.
Let’s dive into the article to find out what makes chocolate potentially lethal to dogs and why.
Table of Contents
What makes Chocolate Poisonous to German Shepherds?
Contrary to what many people believe chocolate is not poisonous to dogs because of the sugar content contained within it. While sugar is certainly not good for your dog the worst that is likely to happen from too much sugar intake is cavities, weight gain, or diabetes.
To understand what in chocolate is toxic to dogs we must first know where cholate comes from, Chocolate comes from the roasted seeds of the Cacao tree, or to give the tree its scientific name ‘Theobroma Cacao’, these trees produce two methylxanthine alkaloids, the first is a little know substance called theobromine, the second being the well known and incredibly popular caffeine.
Both theobromine and caffeine are used medically as diuretics (meaning it makes you need the toilet) as well as being used for heart stimulation, blood vessel dilation, and muscle relaxants.
For humans, these two items are easily digested and we can usually process them through our bodies in roughly 2-3 hours. With dogs, however, this metabolism is considerably slower, taking around 18hours.
How Much Theobromine is Dangerous for my German Shepherd?
This depends on your dog’s weight, however, the average male German Shepherd is between 65-90lbs whereas the average female is 50-70. For the calculations in this section we are going to use the average weight of 77.5 lbs (35KG) for males and 60 lbs (27KG) for females.
Theobromine consumption of around 20milligrams per KG(mg/KG) of your dog’s weight is considered toxic (Avg. 700milligrams male, 540mg female). This will still be a relatively low toxicity at this stage and symptoms will be mild.
Consumption of roughly 45mg/KG (Avg. 1,575milligrams male, 1,215mg female) then they will start to display severe signs of chocolate poisoning.
Consumption of around 60mg/KG (Avg. 2,100milligrams male, 1,620mg female) the chocolate poisoning tends to induce seizures in German Shepherds.
Consumption of over 100mg/KG (Avg. 3,500 milligrams male, 2,700mg female) can prove to be fatal.
To put those numbers into perspective. One 500g bar of a leading dark chocolate will contain roughly 3000mg of theobromine, more than enough to kill an average sized female German Shepherd.
How much Theobromine is in Different Chocolate Types?
Not all chocolates are created equally, and the amount of theobromine found differs significantly between the different chocolate types and the general rule of thumb is the darker the chocolate the higher the theobromine content.
We’ve listed the common chocolate types and their theobromine amounts below:
It is incredibly unlikely that through eating White Chocolate your German Shepherd could consume enough theobromine for it to become toxic. This assumption is the same across all White Chocolate products, including those with a the ‘Contain Cocoa Solids’ tag. Even though the level of theobromine is low in white chocolate the levels of sugar, buttermilk, fat, and caffeine will still cause your Shepherd stomach upset.
Although still relatively low in theobromine Milk Chocolate consumption is a lot more dangerous for dogs that white chocolate. It would take a single large 200g bar to become potentially dangerous for a female a German Shepherd.
Although varying considerably between mild and strong dark chocolate the theobromine content jumps considerably when looking at dark chocolate. A single large 200g bar of dark chocolate eaten by a German Shepherd would be considered a serious emergency requiring immediate veterinary assistance.
Another large jump in the theobromine content from Dark Chocolate, Baking/Cooking Chocolate is the worst possible bar form of chocolate your German Shepherd could consume. Half a 200g bar is enough to be considered a possible emergency requiring veterinary assistance.
Hot Chocolate Powder
Due to the lack of powder you will traditionally place into a hot chocolate a cup of hot chocolate tends to have roughly the same theobromine as a small bar of milk chocolate. Consuming a cup of hot chocolate should not be dangerous to your German Shepherd but if they were to get hold of the tub of powder it most certainly could be.
Cocoa Powder is by far and away the most dangerous and possibly lethal chocolate-based substance your GSD could get their paws on. Containing over 700mg/OZ of theobromine it would take as little as a few grams for your German Shepherd to potentially be at risk of seizures.
Common Chocolate and their Theobromine Content
Ice Cream Rich Chocolate
1 cup ( 148g)
1 cup (170g)
Ready to Eat Chocolate Pudding
4 oz (108g)
Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar
1.55 oz (43g)
Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup
2 Tbsp (39g)
Hershey’s KISSES (Milk Chocolate)
9 pieces (41g)
Hershey’s Semi-Sweet Baking Bar
1 Tbsp (15g)
Cookies, brownies, commercially prepared
1 Square (2 –3/4” sq x 7/8″) (56g)
KIT KAT Wafer Bar
1 bar (42g)
REESE’S Peanut Butter Cups (2pk)
2 cups (45g)
Doughnut, cake-type, chocolate, sugared or glazed
1 Doughnut (3′ dia) (43g)
Chocolate Chip Cookies , made with margarine
1 Cookie Med (2 1/4″ dia) (16g)
1 bar (58g)
Generic Hot Fudge Sundae Topping
1 Sundae (158g)
REESE’S PIECES Candy
1 package (46g)
Source – PetMD
What are the symptoms of chocolate poisoning?
These will depend on which of the above chocolate types your German Shepherd has eaten. The most common symptoms are usually vomiting and diarrhoea, these will often contain blood, as well as increased drinking, panting and restlessness. If you GSD has consumed enough theobromine to be classed as severely poisoned or worse you may notice muscle tremors, seizures, and a racing heart and in the worst-case scenario chocolate poisoning can lead to a cardiac arrest.
Even if your GSD survives the initial poisoning there are secondary complications that can occur such as pneumonia and even dangers from your GSD’s body reabsorbing theobromine already in their system.
Can German Shepherds Eat Chocolate?
How long does it take for a German Shepherd to show symptoms of Chocolate Poisoning?
Due to the time it takes for theobromine to pass through your dog’s system symptoms of chocolate poisoning will not display instantly. Your German Shepherd will normally start displaying symptoms after approximately two hours however it can take as long as 24 hours for symptoms to fully appear.
Symptoms can unfortunately last up to 3 days due to the slow digestive rate.
What should I do if my German Shepherd has eaten chocolate?
As with any poisoning, the earlier treatment starts the better, do not wait for symptoms to appear before consulting your vet. If you suspect your dog has consumed any level of chocolate contact your vets immediately.
If your dog consumes the chocolate out of hours and your vet is not available, then contact an emergency vet within your region. If an emergency vet is unavailable then you can try either Pet Poison or the Animal Poison Control Center who’s helplines are both open 24/7 365, however, both will charge a consultation fee for the call.
Pet Poison– (855) 764-7661
Animal Poison Control Centre – (888) 426-4435
When you speak to a vet or one of the emergency companies they will need to know roughly when your dog ate the chocolate, what type of chocolate it was that your dog consumed, and if your dog is already displaying any of the symptoms we mentioned earlier in the article.
Timing is critical with chocolate poisoning and If your dog has consumed chocolate within the last couple of hours your vet may ask you to either induce vomiting in your German Shepherd at home to save vital minutes or to feed your GSD activated charcoal in an attempt to bind the toxins and prevent them being absorbed into your dog’s body.
If your vet advises inducing vomiting at home, they will talk you through how to do this on the phone a basic guide is below:
How to Induce Vomiting In my German Shepherd
Do not attempt to induce vomiting by sticking your fingers down your dog’s throat, this can cause serious harm for you and your dog.
- 3% Hydrogen Peroxide
- Large Syringe
Steps to follow
1 – Measure 1ml of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide (Critical – it MUST be 3% Hydrogen Peroxide) per lb of Dog Weight (DO NOT administer more than 45ml of Hydrogen Peroxide).
2 – Squirt the Peroxide into your GSD’s mouth. Your vet will guide you through how to do this, but you will need to pull back their lips and squirt the mixture to the back of their throat. Make sure to not hold the syringe too close to your dogs’ nose while doing this as inhalation of peroxide can cause aspiration
3 – Stay with your dog until they vomit, if they do not vomit within 15 minutes one more dosage can be administered.
4 – When your dog has vomited collect a sample in a leak proof container for your vet to analyse.
5 – Follow the guidance from your vet however at the very least stay alongside your GSD for 45 minutes to monitor for any complication or adverse reactions.
How to administer Activated Charcoal
Once your German Shepherd has successfully vomited at home your vet may ask you to feed your GSD Activated Charcoal to bind the toxins and prevent them from being absorbed further into your dog’s body. Activated charcoal effectively acts as a large magnet in your dog’s body attracting all the toxins to it.
Activated Charcoal is made from coconut shells that are super-heated to produce ash, the ash is then processed with steam at equally high temperatures to produce the activated charcoal.
The recommended dose of Activated Charcoal will be around 1-3gm/KG of body weight.
Although both induced vomiting and activated charcoal are excellent steps to help your German Shepherd if they have consumed chocolate it is highly likely you will still have to take your dog into the vets. If your GSD’s condition worsens or your vet is still concerned for their wellbeing it is highly likely that your dog will have to have one of the following treatments:
- Further Induced vomiting
- IV Drip
- Medication to control seizures and help your dog’s heart.
Dogs love chocolate as much as humans and will do anything they can to get their paws on it. It is up to you as a responsible owner to ensure you keep all chocolate or cocoa products out of reach of your German Shepherd. Holiday periods such as Christmas and Easter always coincide with an increase in poisoning incidents so try to ensure you are responsible around these times.
Chocolate poisoning is a scary thing to happen to any dog and owner and despite the risks as long as you are able to catch the poisoning in it’s infancy the prognosis is generally pretty good.
- Sugar isn’t the poisonous substance in chocolate
- Theobromine and caffeine are the poisonous substances
- Just 20 milligrams per kilogram of body weight is toxic.
- 45 milligrams per kilogram of body weight will cause severe symptoms
- 60 milligrams per kilogram of body weight will likely cause seizures
- 100+ milligrams per kilogram of body weight is enough to kill a dog
- Different chocolate types have different theobromine levels.
- White Chocolate is generally safe whereas Cocoa Powder is incredibly dangerous
- If you suspect your dog has consumed chocolate phone your vet immediately
Hopefully we have answered the question “Can German Shepherds Eat Chocolate” in this article – Have you ever had to experience chocolate poisoning? Did your German Shepherd recover fully and is there any advice or information we may have missed out? Be sure to let us know in the comments.
Check out our complete guide on What Human Foods Can (and can’t) German Shepherds Eat and for more information on different food types please visit our Food Section