I think it’s time for everyone to come clean. One of the great temptations in life is giving your pets and other animals under your care a treat that they just shouldn’t have.
Maybe it’s something really good that will upset their stomach. Maybe it’s just too rich and fattening for them. Whatever the animal, and whatever the treat is, we’ve all been there.
But when it comes to our pigs, they can eat pretty much anything, right? How about something like chocolate? Is it safe for pigs to eat chocolate?
Yes, surprisingly, pigs can have small quantities of chocolate safely. Chocolate is a great source of concentrated calories when pigs need it and this makes it useful for weaning piglets or for finishing. Too much chocolate can hurt them, though.
This was something of a shock to me, because I had known for a very long time that chocolate is very dangerous to all sorts of livestock.
But as it turns out, as long as you’re careful not to give them too much, pigs can eat it safely, and believe me they will love it. It even has some genuine benefits that they can take advantage of. Keep reading and I’ll tell you so much more about giving chocolate to your herd.
Do Pigs Like Chocolate?
Yes, they sure do! Pigs love all sorts of things, and like many animals, they have a not-so-secret sweet tooth. Hardly anything is sweeter or more delicious than chocolate. It’s just indescribably good, and in my experience, pigs seem to agree with that sentiment.
If you want to give them an occasional, special treat, chocolate will always bring them running.
Is Chocolate Healthy for Pigs?
In terms of a treat only, chocolate is reasonably healthy for pigs. It is a wonderful source of energy thanks to abundant fat and sugar and it even has a few minerals that can help them out.
However, the precise nutritional value of any given type of chocolate varies. There are so many kinds out there!
But, as a rule of thumb, anytime pigs need a pick-me-up due to injury, heat stress, or other problems, chocolate can really be a great solution. It definitely gives them a little bit of pep in their step, and can help shake them out of a slump.
Chocolate has also long been a secret weapon for weaning piglets off of milk. It tastes great, has tons of calories, and is enticing enough to keep piglets away from the teat, so to speak.
But, chocolate is not without its risks as we will learn in the very next section.
Is Chocolate Poisonous to Them in Any Way?
Chocolate is potentially toxic to pigs, but they are one of the few mammals, or any animal really, that can eat it without the expectation of major trouble.
Interestingly, this is because their digestive system is remarkably similar to human beings, and just like us, pigs can process a quantity of chocolate without falling victim to the toxic compounds in it.
The major risks associated with giving it to pigs are in the form of theobromine and caffeine…
Theobromine is an alkaloid compound that, in humans, gives us a mood boost, but if pigs get too much it can cause nervous system, cardiovascular and other major problems including seizures, respiratory collapse, involuntary bladder movements and more. Not good!
Caffeine you are already familiar with, but caffeine is not good for pigs and can be extremely harmful in anything but very small amounts.
The good news is that both of these issues are avoidable if you make it a point to only give them small quantities of chocolate every once in a while. That way, their digestive system can flush out the harmful compounds from their system before they get more.
Is Milk Chocolate Okay for Pigs?
Yes, milk chocolate is fine for pigs and if I was going to give any to my herd this is the one that I would choose. It’s sweet, highly caloric, and has less caffeine and less theobromine compared to other types.
Is Dark Chocolate Okay?
Yes, nominally, but only give it to them cautiously. Darker types of chocolate typically contain more theobromine, and very dark types of chocolate contain tons of stuff.
Giving your pigs a larger quantity of dark chocolate might put them at genuine risk of poisoning. Keep the amounts very small if you’re giving them dark chocolate.
Is Baking Chocolate Safe for Pigs to Eat?
Not really. Nominally, baking chocolate is just chocolate like any other, but analysis indicates that baking chocolate contains tons of theobromine compared to milk chocolate and most types of dark chocolate.
This means that the risk of an overdose, either from theobromine or caffeine, is elevated with baking chocolate.
If you’re going to give it to your pigs, only give them the tiniest amount.
How Often Can Pigs Eat It?
As a rule of thumb, adult pigs should only have chocolate once or perhaps twice a week in small amounts as a treat. If you’re giving them dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate, it should only be once a week.
The guideline is that pigs can have one ounce of chocolate for every 10 pounds of body weight.
However, there are special circumstances where pigs can have a lot more than you might think!
If an adult is getting close to finishing and you’re trying to pack on that last little bit of weight, anywhere from 25% to 30% of their total calorie intake might be milk chocolate. They’ll definitely pack on the pounds then!
Also, weaning piglets can have chocolate according to the same feeding schedule in order to get them off of milk and transition them into a usual diet.
But, full disclaimer: if you are inexperienced, you should probably talk to a livestock nutritionist experienced with pigs’ dietary needs or your veterinarian before proceeding.
How Can I Feed My Pigs Chocolate?
The best type of chocolate for pigs is milk chocolate, and assuming you have chocolate bars you can break it up into smaller chunks that are a little bit easier for them to eat.
But don’t worry, because pigs will stop at nothing to eat every last bit of it however you serve it to them! I recommend you give it to them in a feeder or on another surface where it can’t get lost in the dirt or mud.
Can Piglets Have Chocolate, Too?
Yes, they can, but cautiously. As mentioned, weaning piglets can have chocolate to help get them off of milk and into eating solid foods but you’ve got to be very cautious of the quantity because they’re more at risk of poisoning compared to larger, adult pigs.
Also, you should only give milk chocolate to piglets as a rule. I think it’s just a little too risky to try dark chocolate or baking chocolate at this young and delicate age.
Will chocolate cause diarrhea in pigs?
It can. Rich, sweet foods have a tendency to cause diarrhea in some. If you notice this happening, simply back off on the amount.
But, if they’re vomiting, trembling, or showing any other major signs of distress stop giving them chocolate entirely.
Can potbelly pigs safely eat chocolate?
Yes, they can. But watch the diet of a potbelly pig closely because they are more likely to suffer from being overweight or obese compared to other breeds.
Is stale chocolate safe for pigs?
Yes, it is. Assuming it isn’t spoiled, rancid, or rotten stale chocolate is just fine for pigs.
Can pigs eat other kinds of candy safely?
Yes, on a limited basis. But, there is a catch: you should never feed pigs any candies with artificial ingredients in them, and especially sweeteners that can be overtly toxic. Natural and real sugar candies are fine as treats, though.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.