Can German Shepherds Eat Chocolate? Beware of Poisoning!

Everyone that knows me knows how much I like my chocolate! One day, when enjoying one of my many favorite bars, I wondered whether my German Shepherd could eat some…

German Shepherds should not eat chocolate as it is toxic to dogs. It contains a compound called theobromine (related to caffeine) which causes poisoning. All types of chocolate are dangerous however the most potent types are dark and unsweetened baking chocolate. Death can occur depending on your dog’s size and how much your dog ate.

In this article, I’ll share with you a ton of info about dogs and chocolate. You’ll discover how much chocolate is toxic, symptoms to look out for if your German Shepherd accidentally eats some, and what you should do.

Can German Shepherds Eat Chocolate? German Shepherd and some chocolates
My German Shepherd “Willow” with some chocolates

How Much Chocolate is Toxic to Dogs?

Chocolate is made from seeds (beans) in the pod-like fruit of the Theobroma cacao tree. The poison in chocolate is the methylxanthines theobromine and caffeine. Both of these are diuretic which means they remove water from the body. 

These compounds are also stimulants that can speed up your German Shepherd’s heart rate and stimulate their nervous system. Although the concentration of theobromine in chocolate is 3–10 times more than caffeine, both contribute to the toxicosis.

You and I have a high tolerance for these compounds and we can easily metabolize theobromine, but dogs aren’t able to do this. They can only process it much more slowly, allowing it to build up to toxic levels. Theobromine is also found in coffee, tea, and cola drinks.

Check out the below 3-minute video from “Animal Wised” describing why dogs should never eat chocolate:

Can Dogs Eat Chocolate?

Here are some of the types of foods containing chocolate that are dangerous for your German Shepherd:

  • Baking (unsweetened) chocolate
  • Dark chocolate
  • Cocoa (cacao) beans
  • Semi-sweet chocolate
  • Milk chocolate
  • White chocolate
  • Hot chocolate
  • Chocolate cake, cookies, and candies, etc

Different types of chocolate have different levels of potency: 

Baking chocolate, dark chocolate, and cocoa are the most dangerous for your German Shepherd, whilst white chocolate is the least.

White chocolate contains very little theobromine and although your German Shepherd would have to eat a very large amount to cause poisoning, it is still high in fat which can make your dog quite ill and can also trigger pancreatitis.

Therefore, the darker and more bitter the chocolate, the greater the risk. Your dog could get sick or die from eating a small amount of baker’s chocolate, but eating an equivalent amount of milk chocolate (which contains mostly sugar and fat) may produce mild or no symptoms.

These are the approximate amounts of theobromine that is present in the below types of chocolate per ounce:

  • Baking Chocolate 450 mg
  • Dark chocolate 300 mg
  • Semi-sweet chocolate 260 mg
  • Milk chocolate 60 mg
  • White chocolate 1 mg
Can German Shepherds Eat Chocolate? Chocolate Bar

So now we know which TYPES OF CHOCOLATE are the most toxic, exactly HOW MUCH IS TOXIC for your German Shepherd (or any other breed for that matter)?

Well, this all depends on the weight of your dog. The weight of a German Shepherd can vary from a small female of 49 lbs (22 kg) to a large male weighing over 88 lbs (40 kg). Therefore, a 6 lb Yorkshire Terrier that eats one ounce of dark chocolate is at greater risk of toxicity than a 75 lb German Shepherd that eats the same amount.

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, just one ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight is a potentially lethal dose in dogs.

I also found this really helpful chocolate toxicity calculator from “Vets Now.” I was able to work out that my German Shepherd who weighs 88 lb (40kg) would have to eat 12.5 ounces (around 350g) of milk chocolate to require medical attention.

This is quite a large-sized block, however, should she have consumed the more toxic bakers (unsweetened) chocolate then she would only have to eat 2 ounces (around 50g) to require the same medical attention and only 3.75 ounces (around 100g) to require emergency treatment. Consuming 9.25 ounces (around 260g) could result in her death.

From these frightening facts, it wouldn’t take much of the more potent types of chocolate to cause serious harm or worse to a toy or small breed dog.

If you are inquisitive like me, go ahead and check out the calculator to see how much your dog would have to eat of each of the different types of chocolate to cause an emergency.

Some types of chocolate also contain xylitol (sweetener) which is an additional poison to your dog.

To make things even worse, don’t even think of letting your dog near chocolate coated nuts, especially macadamia and walnuts, as both of these nuts contain an unknown toxic which can not only cause an upset stomach or lead to pancreatitis (due to their high-fat content) but can also cause muscle weakness, seizures, and tremors.

You can find out here what other foods are poisonous to German Shepherds, including one or two hidden dangers that you would never have even thought of!

How Long Does it Take for Chocolate to Affect a Dog?

Although your German Shepherd may begin to display symptoms within two hours of eating chocolate, it can take as long as twenty-four hours for symptoms to appear due to theobromine metabolizing slowly. However, you mustn’t wait for symptoms to appear and contact your vet immediately for advice.

If you catch your dog red-handed, quickly remove any chocolate out the way, and try to retrieve any remaining chocolate from your dog’s mouth. Do not try to stick your finger’s down your dog’s throat as this is dangerous and can make things worse!

Can German Shepherds Eat Chocolate? German Shepherd and some chocolates
My German Shepherd “Willow” – “I don’t think I should even be looking at these!”

You will be pleased to know that there are alternate safe doggy chocolate products that you can buy. These don’t contain caffeine or the deadly, poisonous, very toxic theobromine that chocolate contains. My German Shepherd loves them.

What are the Symptoms if my Dog Eats Chocolate?

These are a list of the symptoms that your German Shepherd may display if they ate a quantity of chocolate:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Panting
  • Excessive thirst
  • Hyperactivity
  • Excitability
  • Twitching
  • Lethargy
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Tremors
  • Seizure
  • Death (due to heart problems, hyperthermia, or respiratory failure)

What Do I Do if my Dog Eats Chocolate?

Early intervention and treatment can make a difference in saving your German Shepherd’s life. If you believe your dog has eaten chocolate you must contact your vet as a matter of emergency. Pet Poison Helpline and ASPCA (Animal Poison Control Center) are also available for advice 24 hours a day.

The sooner your dog is diagnosed, the better chance they have and the less expensive it will be for you – unless of course, you have a good pet insurance plan in place.

Your veterinarian will want to know:

  • What type of chocolate your dog ate.
  • How much chocolate your dog ate.
  • How long since your dog ate the chocolate.
  • Whether your dog is displaying any symptoms.

Try to give as much information as possible as this will help with any treatment and subsequent prognosis. If you are unsure, try to estimate as best you can.

If your German Shepherd has eaten chocolate within the past two hours your vet may tell you to induce vomiting to get rid of the poison. If it has been longer than two hours your dog may need more intensive treatment as below:

  1. Induce vomiting (depending on when the chocolate was eaten).
  2. Giving activated charcoal – to bind to the chocolate from the stomach and intestines.
  3. IV fluid therapy.
  4. Giving cardiac medications.
  5. Control seizure activity and elevated heart rate as needed.
  6. Careful monitoring.
  7. Bland diet.

You must never induce vomiting unless a vet tells you to do so because sometimes you can cause more injury or harm. You must follow the correct instructions and not try crazy and dangerous remedies like sticking your finger down your dog’ s throat or giving mustard or salt!

Vets will only recommend inducing vomiting at home in the below situations, as advised by Dr. Justine A. Lee (veterinary specialist and toxicologist) from Pet Health Network:

  • If the toxic substance (e.g. chocolate) was only recently ingested.
  • If your dog is not yet showing any signs of the poisoning.
  • If your dog is healthy and isn’t at risk of inhaling the vomit into his or her lungs.

The only safe and recommended substance to induce vomiting is 3% hydrogen peroxide. If you don’t have any handy at home, you can obtain it from your local drug store. So, how much hydrogen peroxide should you give?

“In general, the dose of hydrogen peroxide in dogs is approximately 0.5 – 1 ml per pound weight. If your dog weighs 50 pounds, you can give 25 – 50 mls of fresh, non-expired hydrogen peroxide orally, once.”

Dr. Justine A Lee DVM, DACVECC

Keep in mind that 15 mls = 1 tablespoon (or 5 mls = 1 teaspoon), so the example above would be approximately 1.5 – 3.5 tablespoons. 

Prevention is the best advice. Keep all types of chocolate out of the reach of your German Shepherd, especially around the holiday seasons and don’t put them under or on your Christmas tree!

According to the American Kennel Club, at Christmas, dogs are four times more likely to be taken to the vets with chocolate poisoning than at any other time of the year: 

“Each year, reports of dogs with chocolate poisoning increase dramatically around Christmas and Easter. During these periods take extra care to ensure that all chocolate is kept out of the reach of your dog.”

American Kennel Club

You can also teach your dog the command, “leave it!” This command is extremely effective in preventing your dog from eating something that falls to the floor. It’s also a very easy command to teach.

If you are looking for more info on training, I have a step-by-step guide on how to train a German Shepherd puppy that you will find helpful.

Final Thoughts

You now know that your German Shepherd can’t eat chocolate and you now know what to do in the event of accidental poisoning. Recovery from chocolate toxicity depends on the severity and how soon treatment was started.

You shouldn’t be worried though as complete recovery can be made and the prognosis is good if the poisoning is caught and treated early, i.e. within 2 hours of the chocolate being eaten.

Recovery time can take up to three days. Don’t forget to remind guests to your home of the dangers, as not all visitors will be familiar with dogs.

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Sharon Waddington

I am the owner of World of Dogz. I have a female German Shepherd named Willow, and I've worked with dogs for almost 30 years. I love spending time with her, and I enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise of all things dogs on this site!

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