Does chocolate toxicity build up in a dog?

Dr Pete Wedderburn / 19 March 2019

A reader is worried after she found her grandson feeding chocolate to the dog.


I saw my grandson trying to feed my dog a bit of his chocolate. I immediately stopped him and told him not to, but I’m worried he might have done it before. I’ve heard chocolate can build up in a dog’s system, are there symptoms I should watch out for?


Chocolate is dangerous to dogs (e.g. a small bar can kill a small dog), but it’s metabolised within 24 hours, so there is no risk of cumulative toxicity. It’s still a bad idea to give dogs tiny chocolate treats: they may not poison the animal, but they give a dog the taste for chocolate, making it more likely that they’ll seek it out (e.g. in boxes of chocolates on the table).

Dogs have an exquisitely sensitive sense of smell, and they’re able to detect chocolate through several layers of wrapping and cellophane. The big risk is a dog stealing a stash of chocolate and then suffering fatal consequences from an overdose.

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