Can Dogs Have White Chocolate?
If there is one thing every chocoholic of a dog owner can agree on, it’s that you should not feed your pet dog a square of your deliciously dark, 90% cocoa chocolate bar. Most dog owners understand that even the cheapest, weakest chocolate—the milky stuff that gets pressed into shapes and tossed into our kids’ Jack-o-Lantern shaped buckets on Halloween—can be dangerous for our dogs.
But what the dog-loving chocoholics really want to know is this: what about white chocolate? Many chocolate lovers will get into physical fights over whether or not white chocolate should even be considered ‘real chocolate’, but is it appropriate as a treat for our pets? Can you give your dog white chocolate? Chocolate purists want a way to get rid of their white chocolate without tossing it in the garbage (or worse: indoctrinating their children into white chocolate fandom). White chocolate fans, on the other hand, want to share their favorite treat with their canine companions. Regardless of which side of the white chocolate fence you stand on, you want to know whether or not Fido can eat it.
So, can you pass off your unwanted white chocolate onto your furry friend? The answer: You probably shouldn’t. White chocolate is still candy, after all, and it is often very high in sugar and fat. However, white chocolate is far less dangerous to your pet than, say, 90% cocoa dark chocolate, so if your dog eats a piece every now and then, it isn’t likely to hurt them. Feeding your dog white chocolate is not recommended, but it probably is not a medical emergency either.
To understand this, we need to understand why chocolate is toxic to dogs. The toxin in question is a substance known as theobromine, which is a stimulant, a diuretic, and a muscle relaxant all rolled into one (no wonder chocolate makes us feel so good!). While theobromine offers mood and energy benefits for us humans, it wreaks havoc on our dogs’ bodies. As a general rule, the darker the chocolate, the higher the theobromine concentration—and the less chocolate it will take to cause your dog to be seriously ill. White chocolate contains the lowest theobromine content of all the types of chocolate, which makes it the least likely to hurt your dog.
Be that as it may, white chocolate does contain some theobromine, and in high enough doses, it can still result in theobromine toxicity. Your dog’s symptoms will vary widely based on your dog’s health, weight, and how much chocolate they consumed. For healthy dogs, symptoms of ‘chocolate overdose’ usually consist of upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, anxiety, pacing, panting, extreme thirst, increased urination, and fast heart rate. More severe symptoms include muscle spasms, shaking, and even seizures. In older dogs, dogs with heart conditions, or very small dogs who eat a lot of chocolate, cardiac arrest may cause sudden death. Symptoms, mild or severe, may take several hours after exposure to show up, and can last for several days after the initial chocolatey meal. If your dog eats chocolate (dark, milk, or white) and displays any of these symptoms, immediate veterinary care is required.
Things to Keep in Mind
If your dog eats a significant amount of white chocolate, it may be a good idea to take them to the vet’s office even if they don’t experience theobromine toxicity symptoms—your veterinarian may be able to head off any issues by inducing vomiting, which will save you and your dog a lot of trouble in the long run. Your dog may also receive activated charcoal to help prevent the absorption of theobromine into your dog’s system.
Even though white chocolate contains relatively low levels of theobromine and likely won’t poison big, healthy dogs in small doses, it isn’t a healthy treat. White chocolate is often very high in added sugars and fats, which can result in unhealthy weight gain, upset stomach, nausea, and vomiting. High fat foods like white chocolate can also cause a painful condition called pancreatitis, which occurs when your dog’s pancreas becomes inflamed. This inflammation manifests as abdominal pain, a visibly distended stomach, vomiting, behavioral changes, pacing, or panting. This condition can become chronic if left untreated, so it’s important to consult a veterinarian.
To sum it all up: even if you, chocolate purist, do not consider white chocolate to be ‘real chocolate’, it still is not a safe dog treat. While your healthy large breed is unlikely to suffer from theobromine toxicity from a couple bites of white chocolate, elderly dogs or small breeds very well may develop life-threatening illness. Even without the theobromine, white chocolate is full of the stuff that makes dogs sick: fat and sugar. If you want to give your dog a sweet treat, you are much better off giving them small amounts of dog-friendly fruits like apples and strawberries.