Expert advice on the effect chocolate can have on your dog from Baileys’ director of nutrition

Q . Like many devoted dog lovers, I reward my three-year-old Golden Labrador bitch with treats during training.

She especially loves chocolate – both the human and canine variety – and I admit I do tend to spoil her with a piece or two every day.

However I’m worried as a friend has told me that too much chocolate can be bad for a dogs health (and waistline!), but how much is too much and should I only be giving her the occasional doggy chocolate?

A. Dogs like humans always seem to love the things they shouldn’t have! In this case your friend is right about chocolate being bad for your dogs health.

Human varieties of chocolate are best avoided, as chocolate contains theobromine (a compound similar to caffeine), which can be toxic to dogs.

The dog is sensitive to small amounts of theobromine because it cannot be metabolised very rapidly. The darker the chocolate, the higher the amounts of theobromine, cocoa powder has very high levels.

Cooking chocolate, dark and bitter chocolate are the worst, although milk chocolate still contains theobromine but at a lower level.

A small piece of chocolate given infrequently will probably not cause any harm, however dogs can easily over consume chocolate if given the chance particularly Labradors!

So chocolate should be kept out of their reach. If you suspect your dog has over consumed then inducing vomiting can be the best immediate treatment, and consult your vet.

Carob is a chocolate substitute and may be included in some doggy treats. If you want to keep rewarding your dog with chocolate then stick to the specially formulated doggy chocs, which will not have cocoa as an ingredient.

Treats are an ideal way of rewarding your dog during training, but remember they have a calorie value, so if you are worried about the dogs waistline try not to over-feed them and be prepared to adjust your dogs main diet according to how many treats your dog gets every day. (Many dog treat manufacturers give feeding guidelines on the packets).