Dogs are notorious for getting into things they shouldn’t. If you leave a protein bar on your counter, your pooch may help themselves. You may mix a protein drink and step away for a minute, only to find that your dog has helped themselves to your shake.
Many protein bars and shakes are chocolate flavored. Chocolate can make even the blandest foods taste better, which is why it’s such a popular flavor. However, chocolate is toxic to dogs. This can become a major concern when your dog ingests your favorite protein snack.
Can dogs eat chocolate protein bars or powders?
The simplest answer is they shouldn’t. It’s possible for them to get an upset stomach, and in some cases, the ingredients can be toxic to them. It comes down to the size of your dog, the concentration of chocolate and other harmful ingredients, and how much they ate.
Why Protein Powders and Bars Are Dangerous for Dogs
Protein bars and powders are thought of as healthy for humans. Some are designed for people who want to lose weight. Others are designed for those who are active, and attempting to gain weight or build muscle.
The ingredients in these foods are helpful for these purposes, and there’s nothing in them that’s harmful to humans. However, your dog’s system is very different from your own.
Many of the ingredients are healthy for dogs in the appropriate dosage, but that dosage is far lower than it is for a human. The concentrated dosages found in these nutritional supplements can be high enough to be toxic for your dog.
Dog Safe Protein Supplements
You may have seen protein powders marketed for dogs, and wondered what the difference is between those and the human version. Protein powder for dogs will not contain any ingredients that are toxic to dogs, like chocolate. They will also have the nutrients in the correct amount for dogs, which is a much smaller dosage than humans require.
You may know that chocolate is toxic to dogs, and expect this to be the biggest concern with chocolate-flavored protein supplements. Chocolate is certainly a problem ingredient, but it’s far from the only one.
Cocoa powder is the most toxic to dogs, because it is highly concentrated. Dogs can not metabolize theobromine and caffeine found in chocolate.
Theomobrine is the substance that gives us pleasure when eating chocolate. It’s a mild stimulate that releases happy chemicals in our brain. However, it can be fatal to your dog.
It’s difficult to know how dangerous a chocolate protein product is because they don’t list how much chocolate is actually in it. The ingredients list may include chocolate, cocoa, or chocolate flavor. Cocoa powder is highly toxic, because it contains high amounts of theomobrine and caffeine. Milk chocolate is safer, but can still be toxic in higher amounts.
Vitamins (Iron, Vitamin D, A)
Vitamins can be helpful for your dog, but they are toxic in high amounts. Dogs have very different nutritional needs than humans. Protein bars and powders often contain iron, Vitamin D, and ALA. These vitamins are healthy for dogs in small amounts, but they can be toxic at human dosages.
Caffeine can also be toxic to canines. Many protein supplements contain caffeine. It’s a stimulant that can provide energy and alertness, which is useful when on the go or working out.
Dogs can’t process caffeine, so it can make them sick. The ingredients list may include caffeine, tea, or coffee extract. All of these contain caffeine.
Glucosamine and/or MSM
Glucosamine and MSM are excellent supplements for joint health. Again, these are helpful for dogs in the correct amounts. However, humans require a much higher dose. This high dose is unhealthy for dogs.
Sweeteners (Sugar, xylitol)
Most flavored protein bars or powders will contain some type of sweetner. Some of these are made with sugar or ingredients that contain sugar. Brown rice syrup, for example, contains high amounts of sugar.
Excess sugar isn’t healthy for your dog. However, sugar substitutes can be highly toxic. Sugar-free protein powders and bars can contain xylitol. Xylitol can be deadly for dogs, even in small amounts.
Other sugar substitutes are sucralose or stevia. These are not known to be toxic to dogs, but they haven’t been tested for safety in canines either.
Protein is essential for your dog’s health, and should make up the majority of their diet. However, it is also dose dependent. When a dog consumes excess protein, it is excreted through the kidneys. Over time, this can cause kidney problems, because they are working too hard.
What happens if my dog eats a chocolate protein bar or powder?
Potential problems that can arise from a dog eating chocolate protein bars or powders range from mild stomach upset to life-threatening effects. It depends on the ingredients in the supplement, and how much they consumed.
We’ll take a look at some of the ingredients that can harm your dog, and what happens when they eat it. We’ll take a closer look at chocolate soon. First, let’s look at the other ingredients in protein supplements.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol. Unlike sugar, it does not raise blood glucose levels. This makes it ideal for those who are diabetic or attempting to lose weight. However, it’s extremely dangerous for dogs.
The dog’s body recognizes xylitol as it would sugar. It releases high amounts of insulin to lower blood sugar levels, which it expects to go up. Because of the amount of insulin released, and xylitol not raising blood sugar, blood sugar levels drop too low.
This can occur within 10-60 minutes after ingesting xylitol. The severe drop in blood sugar can cause loss of consciousness, seizures, and even death. In addition, xylitol can cause liver failure in dogs.
High levels of iron, Vitamin D, and ALA can be toxic for dogs. An overdose of iron can cause vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and lethargy. Severe effects include shock, tremors, and heart and liver damage.
Vitamin D is also toxic in high amounts. Vitamin D toxicity can cause vomitting, drool excessively, and have increased thirst and urination. In high enough amounts, it can be fatal. Increased calcium or phosphorous or kidney damage can also indicate vitamin D toxicity.
Too much protein can be bad for your dog. Dogs, like people, require a balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. A high dose of protein, without fat or carbs, can be hard on your dog’s body.
Protein is processed by the body, and the waste products are eliminated in the urine. This can put a strain on the kidneys when protein is consumed in very high amounts.
Whey protein is the most common source of protein in bars and powders. This can be difficult for your dog to digest, causing stomach upset.
Vomitting, diarrhea, gas, and stomach pain can be expected. If the gastrointestinal upset is severe, contact your vet for advice. There could be a more serious problem from the powder.
Generally, one high dose of protein shouldn’t be extremely harmful for your dog. However, it’s certainly not healthy for them.
Chondrotin or MSM
Chondrotin or MSM is recommended as a joint supplement for both humans and dogs. However, the dosage is very different.
The good news is that an overdose on this supplement typically only causes diarrhea. However, it is known to cause liver failure in rare cases.
What to do if my dog ate a chocolate protein bar or powder?
If your dog ate chocolate protein or powder, it’s natural to be worried. The good news is, in most cases, they will be fine. However, some ingredients can have a high toxicity level, so it’s important to know how to handle the situation.
Remove the Protein Supplement
The first thing you’ll need to do, technically, is remove access to the protein supplement.
If your dog is still munching on it, take away the remaining amount. Be sure to store it out of reach of your dog.
Assess the Situation
Next, you’ll need to assess the situation. How much did your dog eat? What are the ingredients? It’s best to write these things down, so you can tell your vet if needed.
Seek Help if Needed
If the protein product contains xylitol, you’ll need to call your vet or the pet poison helpline. The Pet Poison Helpline is available at all times, and provides a database and calculators. They can be reached at (855) 764-7661.
You can tell them what your dog ate, the amount, and their weight, and they will let you know what you should do. If you need to go to the vet, they can forward the information to them to help with the treatment plan. It’s a fee-based service, but it’s less expensive than an unneeded vet bill.
Monitor Your Dog
If your dog seems fine, you can simply monitor them. Have your vet or the Poison Helpline contact information nearby, along with the information about what your dog consumed, just in case things change.
Mild stomach upset is nothing to be concerned about. However, if your dog is vomiting or pooping blood, has tremors, seizures, loses consciousness, is very hyper or lethargic, or disoriented, seek help immediately.
It’s important to monitor your dog for at least 12, and preferably 24, hours to ensure that they will not have any serious effects.
What are the signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs?
Chocolate poisoning symptoms range from mild to severe and potentially fatal. Theomobrine and caffeine are both stimulants that the dog’s body can’t process well. This means they have a much stronger effect on dogs than they do humans, even at low doses.
The signs of chocolate poisoning usually appear within 6-12 hours, and they can last for several days.
Mild symptoms of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst and urination, increased or racing heart, and panting.
You will likely notice behavioral signs as well. Restlessness is the most common sign. You may also notice anxiety or obsessive behavior.
The severe symptoms of chocolate poisoning are much more concerning. These include muscle tremors, seizures, and heart failure. Complications can also occur. These include pneumonia due to vomiting, and dehydration due to gastrointestinal distress.
How much chocolate is likely to be too much for a dog?
If they consume dark chocolate, 3.5g of dark chocolate for every 1kg of body weight is dangerous. If it’s milk chocolate, 14g for every 1kg is a potentially toxic dose. 14g of milk chocolate for every kg they weigh.
One Hershey chocolate bar weighs about 41 grams. This means one bar would be dangerous for a dog that weighs less than 3 kg, or 6 pounds.
Cocoa powder, however, is much more dangerous. If the dog weighs 10 lbs, 4 grams or .14 ounces is enough to make them very ill.