Dogs are curious and love food, so it’s no surprise that many make it their personal mission to consume as many human foods as they can – even the ones that are dangerous to them, like chocolate.
Chocolate is one of the most famously dangerous foods to dogs, so it’s important that you are aware of what steps to take if your pup ingests some of this sweet treat. Here’s what to do if your dog eats chocolate.
- Contact your Veterinarian ASAP for an appointment
- Take the chocolate packaging (if possible)
- Note down your dogs approx. weight
- Note down how much chocolate was consumed
Why is Chocolate Dangerous to Dogs?
Chocolate contains an ingredient known as theobromine, which is somewhat similar to caffeine in some ways and is also extremely toxic to dogs.
Theobromine comes naturally in cacao beans and is present in varying concentrations depending on the purity of the chocolate, with something like raw cocoa powder or baking chocolate having the highest amounts while milk chocolate has very little.
Chocolate poisoning, or more specifically, theobromine poisoning, can have very severe effects on a dog.
The substance increases the heart rate and overstimulates the nervous system and eventually leads to the failure of vital organs, mainly the heart and kidney, as well as the central nervous system.
It also doesn’t help that caffeine, which is also potentially toxic to dogs, is very often also contained in chocolate and has similar effects.
Chocolate in any amount is often deadly for dogs when left untreated for too long. The amount of chocolate that it takes to harm a dog depends on the type of chocolate and the size of the dog.
You can calculate how toxic a certain kind and amount of chocolate is too different dog weights with this helpful calculator.
It’s important to note that there is no such thing as a safe amount of chocolate to give to a dog. You should never allow your dog to eat any amount of chocolate, ever.
Symptoms of Chocolate Poisoning
If your dog has ingested enough chocolate for the theobromine to poison them, symptoms will only start to show up after around 6 to 12 hours and may last up to 72 hours even in minor cases.
This is why you should never wait for symptoms to appear. However, do take note of possible symptoms of chocolate poisoning in case your dog consumes chocolate when you are not watching or aware. The symptoms are as follows:
- Extreme thirst
- Increased urination
- Excessive energy or hyperactivity
- Elevated heart rate
- Panting or shortness of breath
- Shaking or tremors
Do note that in older dogs, smaller dogs, or dogs with pre-existing heart conditions, fatality from chocolate can happen extremely suddenly, so you will want to move quickly if you know your dog has eaten chocolate or is exhibiting these symptoms.
What To Do If Your Dog Eats Chocolate
The moment you find out your dog consumed chocolate, or if you suspect he may have, you should immediately contact your veterinarian.
If you know what your dog ate, make sure you have the pack or box of chocolates on hand to provide the vet with any information they ask for. You should also know your dog’s weight or at least have a general idea of it.
Your vet will likely give you a series of instructions on what to do next.
If your dog has eaten very little chocolate for their weight, you may be asked to carefully monitor them for the next few hours or days. You will typically be asked to look out for the aforementioned symptoms in this case.
If the consumption just occurred or happened less than two hours ago, you may be asked to induce vomiting in your dog. You can do this with hydrogen peroxide, administering 1 tablespoon for every 20 pounds that your dog weighs.
A dropper or baster will likely be easier to use than an actual spoon, or you can bate or bribe them with other treats they like.
Putting peanut butter in a bowl with hydrogen peroxide on the rim of the bowl will likely work as dogs tend to lick bowls clean.
Do note that although they will likely recommend using hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting, you should follow your vet’s advice first and double check with them on how to do this.
There is also a chance that your vet will want you to bring your dog in immediately. The most common form of treatment for serious chocolate poisoning involves the use of IV drugs and fluids.
A drug is used to induce vomiting and the stomach is pumped with fluids to flush out the poison. Activated charcoal is used to prevent toxins from seeping into the bloodstream and aid in the flushing process.
The survival of dogs from chocolate poisoning is highly dependent on the response from their owners.
Additional medications may be required to help a dog recover post-treatment, and those who continue to experience symptoms like seizures after treatment may have to stay in a vet clinic or animal hospital overnight.
Preventing Your Dog from Eating Chocolate
Prevention is always better than cure. While there’s no way to guarantee your dog will never be able to find a way to get into foods you don’t want them to eat, you can certainly do all you can to prevent them from easily coming into contact with chocolate products.
Here’s what you can do.
1. Keep Out Of Reach
Chocolate and all other potentially harmful products should be kept behind upper cabinet doors that are well-closed and far out of your dog’s reach. You could also buy rawhide chews which are good for any dog.
It is best to give them something to chew on if they already have the habit of chewing on things they might even eat stones out of boredom, however, that could lead to other problems.
If your pup has a tendency to manage to get into them anyway, consider the use of child locks. Don’t forget to put away unfinished chocolate immediately, too – don’t waste time leaving them out!
2. Throw Out Rubbish
Leftover chocolate wrappers or containers can be enticing to a pup who spots them sitting on a table somewhere. your dog eats chocolate especially if he saw you eat.
They should be well disposed of and if your dog tends to rummage through the trash when they are on a mischievous streak, place all potentially harmful trash in a separate bag and throw them outside of the house, where your dog doesn’t go.
3. Don’t Leave Food Unattended
All it takes is a split second for a mishap to occur – and it only takes a few seconds to bring food along with you or put it away before leaving the area.
Even if you are just nipping to the bathroom, washing your hands quickly, grabbing the remote from the TV rack, or taking a phone call elsewhere.
If your back is turned for even a moment, there’s a window for your dog to grab the chocolate.
4. Train Commands
The “leave it” command is incredibly essential in a dog’s learning, and in many cases, it can save a dog’s life or at least prevent unnecessary medical troubles.
Train your dog to respond reliably to the “leave” command followed by the “down” command and test their willpower and their ability to abide by this order with their favourite treats.
5. Crate Train
If you really can’t be 100% sure that your dog won’t get themselves into trouble while you are gone or too busy to supervise them, crate train them.
Purchase a large, spacious crate that your dog can easily stand and turn around in, and make it cosy with a blanket or two, some toys, or even a non-messy treat.
Crate training can be a difficult process but it’s worth it for the peace of mind. Keep in mind that a dog should ideally not be left inside a crate for more than four hours at a time.