What Should I Do If My Dog Ate Chocolate?
Chocolate can be toxic to dogs and could cause a serious medical emergency. What should i do if my dog ate chocolate? If you know your dog has eaten chocolate, it is critical to monitor him or her for signs of toxicity. Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, which is poisonous to dogs. We will outline examples of toxicity - but it is recommended you contact your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline (855-213-6680, fee applies) for advice.
Why can’t dogs eat chocolate?
As a seemingly harmless sweet delight chocolate is to humans, the effects on dogs is vastly different. Chocolate has adverse effects on a dog’s body, heart and brain.
Chocolate contains an ingredient called theobromine, which is toxic to dogs. Dogs are not able to metabolize theobromine like humans can. Theobromine affects the respiratory system, cardiovascular system, central nervous system as well as has a diuretic effect. This chemical is also found in a number of other foods like leaves of the tea plant and the kola nut. Gardening mulch also may contain cocoa shell’s, which contain very high levels of theobromine. It’s best to keep your dog away from this as well as it has the same smell as chocolate and may be attractive to dogs but potentially lethal.
Most symptoms will begin to appear within two hours of ingestion, but it can take as long as 24 hours for them to appear and up to 3 days for recovery. There is no specific antidote, but some solutions include induction of vomiting and administration of activated charcoal, oxygen, and/or intravenous fluids.
The first symptoms of dog chocolate poisoning include vomiting, hematemesis (vomiting blood), and polydipsia (excessive thirst). Other signs may include hyperexcitability (excitability), hyperirritability (irritability), tachycardia (high heart rate), excessive panting, ataxia (stumbling, falling, and incoordination), and muscle twitching. Effects may progress to cardiac arrhythmias, seizures, and more serious consequences.
The effect and signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs depends on the amount eaten and the size of the breed. The lethal dose of theobromine is reported to be 100-500 mg/kg of body weight in dogs. However not all chocolate contains the same amount of theobromine. Cocoa powder and plain chocolate contain the highest concentrations while milk chocolate and white chocolate has the lowest concentrations. For an example: 100 grams of plain chocolate may have serious consequences for a 22 pound dog.
Chocolate listed in order of theobromine content:
- Cocoa powder (most toxic)
- Unsweetened baker’s chocolate
- Semisweet chocolate
- Dark chocolate
- Milk chocolate
Knowing what kind of chocolate and how much will help you and your vet determine if you have an emergency. Mild symptoms of toxicity occur when a dog consumes 20mg of methylxanthines per kilogram of body weight. Cardiac symptoms of chocolate toxicity occur around 40 to 50 mg/kg and seizures occur at dosages greater than 60 mg/kg. In comparison a concerning dose of chocolate would be 28 grams per pound of body weight.
A typical chocolate bar in the United States is around 45 grams. So consuming a whole chocolate bar may have serious consequences, but eating a crumb off the floor most likely won’t have any noticeable effect.
What are the Signs of Chocolate Poisoning?
Signs of chocolate poisoning usually appear within 6 to 12 hours after your dog has eaten it and may include the following:
- Increased urination
- Elevated or abnormal heart rate
- Collapse and death
What should I do if my dog ate chocolate?
The first step is to stay calm and assess the situation. Make sure to take note of your dog’s weight, the type of chocolate and how much chocolate they have eaten. If you need to go to the vet - they may also want to see the chocolate wrapper to determine whether your dog has eaten a toxic amount of chocolate and the best way to treat them.
Calculate your dog’s toxicity with Pet MD’s Chocolate Toxicity Meter to help determine the size of dog vs. the size of chocolate’s toxicity.
For example if your medium-sized dog has eaten 1 ounce of dark chocolate, the toxicity meter indicates that you should monitor your pet. But that same amount may be more toxic to smaller sized dogs and require urgent attention.
Urgent treatment may be needed if your dog has eaten chocolate. It is recommended you contact your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline (855-213-6680, fee applies) for advice.
A vet will judge a dog’s condition and then decide on the right treatment at that time. Typically, your dog will vomit on their own soon after eating chocolate. If not, your vet may try hydrogen peroxide to make them throw up. Once your dog vomits, your vet may recommend not to give them any food or water for a period of time. Early treatment will help your dog recover quicker.
If you catch your dog eating chocolate, remove immediately. Just one once of chocolate per pound of body weight may have serious consequences. No amount of chocolate is safe for a dog to ingest.
Your vet may use some of the below techniques to help the situation:
- Induce vomiting: One of the best ways to get most of the toxins out of the body.
- IV fluids: These help to flush the stomach and further remove any remaining toxins.
- Activated charcoal: Ingestion of activated charcoal prevents theobromine from getting into the bloodstream. Your veterinarian may recommend repeating this treatment more than once to maximize the chances of blocking those toxins, so don’t be surprised if they send you home with a bottle of activated charcoal.
Steps to take at home
There are a few things you may be able to do at home if your dog has just eaten chocolate. But if you are unsure, contact your vet.
- Induce vomiting: Load a water dropper with 3% Hydrogen Peroxide. 1ml for every pound of body weight is recommended to induce vomiting.
- Re-hydrate: Vomiting will dehydrate your dog. After a while make sure they regain some of their hydration by drinking water to clear out the toxins as much as possible.
When to go to the vet
If you believe your dog has ingested a concerning amount of chocolate, see your vet. Any amount of chocolate is toxic to dogs. Your dog’s weight and amount of chocolate they have eaten will determine the effects it will have on them. You can also call the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-213-6680 for advice on what to do.
How to Prevent Your Dog from Eating Chocolate
- Hide it: The most logical solution would be to make sure all chocolate items are stored where your dog cannot jump up and reach them, such as on a high shelf in a closed-door pantry. Make sure your family also knows not to leave chocolate around or in reach of your dog.
- Crate train your dog: The safest way to ensure your dog doesn’t eat anything harmful is to crate train them. Find a sturdy crate that is large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around and make it a comfortable, safe place for him to retreat to when he wants to be alone or when you can’t watch him. Offer toys, a stuffed Kong, a favorite blanket, and treats to help him feel like the crate is his personal den. Get more tips on crate-training a dog by downloading the complimentary e-book below.
- Teach your dog: The command “leave it” is effective in preventing dogs from eating something that falls onto the ground or is left within reach during a walk. It’s also a very easy command to teach.