can dogs eat chocolate boston, ma

My Dog Ate Chocolate; What Should I Do?

As pet parents, we love to pamper our dogs with treats. But there’s one treat you can never, ever give to your dog: Chocolate. If your dog has ingested chocolate, whether in a treat or by scrounging in the pantry while you were away, here’s what you need to do immediately. 

Call Your Vet!

If your dog ate chocolate, you should contact your veterinarian, emergency veterinarian, or the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 immediately.

Chocolate Is Toxic to Dogs

Chocolate contains two chemicals that are poisonous for dogs: Theobromine and caffeine. Dogs can’t metabolize theobromine and caffeine as well as we do. If your dog eats enough chocolate – and enough theobromine – they can die.

Signs of Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs

Look for these symptoms of chocolate poisoning in your dog:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Pacing or restlessness
  • Panting
  • Shaking
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive urination
  • Racing heart rate
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Increased body temperature
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures
  • Lethargy
  • Heart failure
  • Collapse
  • Coma

Should I Wait for Symptoms to Appear Before I Call the Vet?

No! It can take 6 to 12 hours for symptoms of chocolate poisoning to appear in your dog. So, if you already know your dog’s eaten chocolate, don’t wait for any of the above symptoms to appear, call your vet. If it’s after hours and your veterinarian’s clinic is, call a local emergency vet.

When you call, your veterinarian will ask you exactly what your dog ate, how much of it they ate, and how much your dog weighs. If you don’t know how much your dog weighs, an estimate is fine. This information is essential to your vet – it’s how they will know whether you need to bring your dog in immediately for treatment.

Why? Because chocolate poisoning is dose dependent. That means that all those factors – amount ingested, type ingested, and how much your dog weighs – are how your vet will know how serious your dog’s case is.

How Do Vets Treat Chocolate Poisoning?

At the veterinarian, your vet will immediately begin a variety of treatments to save your dog.

The vet will give your dog activated charcoal to absorb the chocolate toxins from the GI tract, and insert a stomach tube to remove the toxins from the stomach. Your vet will give your dog Intravenous (IV) fluids, for multiple reasons: 1. To help move the toxins out of the bloodstream, 2. To support your dog’s cardiovascular system, which is affected by chocolate toxins, and 3. To keep your dog hydrated.

Your vet will also closely monitor for and treat any other symptoms of chocolate poisoning as they appear. These include agitation, vomiting, diarrhea, irregular heart rhythm and high blood pressure.

How Long Does Chocolate Poisoning Last?

Theobromine has a long half-life, and it can stay in your dog’s system for days. It can take 72 hours for the first symptoms of chocolate poisoning to begin to ease. This is why early treatment is so important, for chocolate and frankly any type of poisoning. Early treatment is always less invasive for your dog, and it’s less expensive for you.

Why Do Some Dog Treats Look Like They Contain Chocolate?

Some treat makers use carob powder, which is harmless, as a substitute for chocolate. But some dog treats do contain chocolate. Treat makers may use a small amount of milk chocolate (which is the least harmful kind of chocolate for dogs) in their treats.

Veterinarians discourage the ingestion of any chocolate in dogs, period. Because you, as a dog parent, can never be sure what kind of chocolate is really in those treats, it’s safest for your dog that you steer clear of all of them.

What Types of Chocolate Are Most Toxic for Dogs?

The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more toxic it is for dogs. This is because the amount of theobromine per ounce is highest in dark, bitter chocolate. Think of it as high-test toxic fuel.

Here are estimates of how much theobromine per ounce is found in different types of chocolate.

  • Cacao beans contain 300-1500 mg of theobromine per ounce.
  • Cocoa powder contains 400-737 mg of theobromine per ounce.
  • Unsweetened baking chocolate contains 390-450 mg of theobromine per ounce.
  • Dark chocolate contains 135 mg of theobromine per ounce.
  • Milk chocolate contains 44-60 mg of theobromine per ounce.
  • White chocolate contains 0.25 mg of theobromine per ounce.

Does My Dog’s Weight Affect the Severity of Chocolate Poisoning?

When it comes to chocolate poisoning, the severity of your dog’s case is determined by the type of chocolate your dog consumed, how much your dog consumed, and how much your dog weighs. This is what is meant by “dose dependent.”

A small dog that eats a small amount of dark chocolate could get much sicker than a large dog that eats a larger amount of white chocolate. It’s because of their size, the type of chocolate, and how much they were able to ingest.

This is why it’s essential to contact your vet to discuss your dog’s exact situation. Only then can your vet diagnose the severity of the poisoning and know whether your pet needs immediate treatment.

How Much Chocolate Is Toxic to Dogs?

PetMD has a dog chocolate toxicity meter that you can use to see how the amount of chocolate your dog ingested will affect them based on their weight. Only use this in conjunction with a call to your veterinarian.

By Acting Quickly, You Can Save Your Dog from Chocolate Poisoning

There are times when your dog has eaten chocolate and the amount is small, and benign, and your vet will recommend that you simply watch your dog at home. The point is you have to call your vet to figure this out. So, if you think, for any reason, that your dog has eaten chocolate, make the call. You and your dog will be glad you did.