Although you may never associate yummy cocoa powder with anything bad, that doesn't mean that it's safe for your precious doggie to eat. Since cocoa powder has chocolate as an ingredient, it may be able to trigger chocolate poisoning in your pet. Definitely not a fun situation.
Why Cocoa Powder Is Bad for Dogs
Cocoa powder is a risky food item for canines due to the chocolate factor. The ASPCA notes that chocolate contains a very dangerous component, theobromine, which is related to caffeine. Caffeine is another key ingredient of chocolate. Theobromine is classified as being a methylxanthine, which is a cardiac stimulating agent. Cocoa powder—and all types of chocolate, for that matter—is dangerous to dogs because their theobromine metabolism process is significantly slower than that of humans. As a result, the process often interferes with the kidneys, central nervous system and heart. And according to the ASPCA, "plain, dry unsweetened cocoa powder contains the most concentrated levels of methylxanthines."
Although the severity of effects varies greatly depending on how much your dog eats and how big he is, dogs may experience an array of uncomfortable and dangerous symptoms. Some telling signs of chocolate poisoning are throwing up, lower stomach pain, hypertension, unusual thirst, abnormal heart rhythm, muscle tremors, fast heartbeat, antsy behavior, unsteady gait, fever, restlessness and convulsions. These symptoms won't be apparent right away, but probably about six to 12 hours after ingestion. If you observe any of them in your cutie, take him to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
Very small amounts of cocoa powder may be part of various doggie-specific snacks. In these tiny amounts it is unlikely to cause distress, though you probably don't want to give your dog the whole bag at once. If he eats too many he may experience mild tummy distress—think watery stools and lower belly ache.
Darkness of Chocolate
You may be able to visually detect just how poisonous certain types of chocolate and chocolate-based items may actually be to your cutie. The ASPCA advices that darker-colored chocolates are significantly more dangerous than lighter ones. (Remember that the next time you watch your pet longingly gazing at someone devouring a dark chocolate cake.) But it's best to play it safe and keep your doggie away from all types of chocolate, whether cocoa powder or a classic candy bar.