Why Your Dog Should Not Eat Chocolate and What to Do If They Do
If there’s one delectable sweet your dog shouldn’t have…it’s chocolate, in any form. Chocolate isn’t just bad for your dog, it’s toxic. Even small amounts can poison your dog. And in the worst case, it can take your dog’s life.
As a responsible dog owner, it’s imperative to know the items that will harm your dog. And the actions to take, if despite your best efforts to safeguard your dog, he ingests something harmful.
In our Pewaukee, WI, animal hospital‘s article, you will learn about the dangers of chocolate and what to do if your dog eats some of this delicious but potentially deadly sweet.
Why Chocolate Is Toxic
Methylxanthines, a class of chemicals in chocolate is toxic to dogs.
To be exact, those chemicals are theobromine and caffeine, and they effect a dog’s central nervous system, heart and kidneys. Theobromine is the primary toxin in chocolate though it is very much like caffeine. When a dog eats chocolate, it can’t metabolize these chemicals the way human can.
Chocolate ingestion is rarely fatal, but your dog can become significantly ill. If a dog eats chocolate, it will depend on three factors as to how serious the situation is.
Determines Seriousness of Situation:
- Type of chocolate
- Amount of chocolate
- Weight of the dog
Theobromine and Caffeine Amounts in Chocolate Vary Depending On:
- Percent of cocoa solids in the chocolate
- Growing conditions of the cocoa beans
- Sources of the cocoa beans
- Varieties of the cocoa beans
As a rule, the darker the chocolate ingested, the greater the risk of the dog becoming ill. The highest amounts of these chemicals are found in baker’s chocolate, cocoa powder, and dark chocolate. The darker and more bitter chocolate is, the more toxic it is. Conversely, white chocolate has a negligible amount and is not considered toxic to dogs.
Chocolate from Most Toxic to Least Toxic:
- Cocoa beans
- Cocoa powder
- Baker’s chocolate
- Semi-sweet chocolate
- Milk chocolate
- White chocolate
Amount Of Chocolate That Is Toxic to a Dog
Theobromine toxicity varies with the type of chocolate.
Baking chocolate and dark chocolate have a high concentration of theobromine per ounce, while milk chocolate has much lower amounts. White chocolate is very low on the scale of toxicity. But even if the amount consumed isn’t a toxicity threat, the fat and sugar can still make dogs ill. In severe cases, these can cause pancreatitis.
Theobromine Levels in Chocolate Types
These are estimates of theobromine in milligrams per ounce.
- Cocoa beans 300 – 1500
- Cocoa powder 400 – 737
- Baking chocolate 390 – 450
- Dark chocolate 135
- Milk chocolate 44 – 60
- White chocolate 25
Methylxanthines Per Kilogram of Body Weight
- 20 mg = mild chocolate toxicity symptoms
- 40 to 50 mg = cardiac events from chocolate toxicity
- >60 mg = seizures from chocolate toxicity
When a dog ingests chocolate, signs of toxicity usually appear 6 to 12 hours later. However, they can appear much sooner.
Symptoms Of Chocolate Toxicity
- Restlessness/Anxious Behavior
- Increased Thirst
- Increased Urination
- Increased Heart Rate
- Elevated Temperature
- Seizures, Collapse, Coma
Clinical Signs of Chocolate Toxicity
The most common signs are diarrhea, vomiting, thirst, panting, racing heart, and excessive urination. Symptoms of a severe case can include tremors, seizures, and heart failure. Complications can develop such as aspiration pneumonia from vomit and make the situation worse.
If a toxic amount of chocolate is ingested, immediate treatment by your veterinarian is highly recommended. Because of the long half-life of theobromine, clinical signs can last for days. It remains in the bloodstream for a longer time. Then the theobromine can be reabsorbed from the bladder. In that case intravenous fluids and extra walks may be necessary to encourage urination.
If Your Dog Ingested Chocolate, Seek Guidance Immediately
If your dog consumed chocolate call your veterinarian immediately.
When calling your veterinarian, they may, after considering your dog’s size, the type of chocolate your dog consumed, and the amount of chocolate ingested, recommend monitoring your dog at home for clinical signs of toxicity. And if your dog’s condition degrades, to call back. Or your veterinarian may want you to bring the dog in to the clinic.
Your veterinarian will determine how best to proceed after evaluating the information you give about the dog and the type and amount of chocolate consumed.
Treatment For Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs
The chocolate must be removed from the dog’s system. Timing is important. Your veterinarian may be able to induce vomiting if the chocolate was ingested within the past hour. If this is successful in getting the chocolate out you may be able to avoid a hospital stay for your dog.
If your dog hasn’t developed any signs of toxicity yet, but you don’t know when your dog ingested chocolate, or it’s been a few hours, a simple treatment may be all your dog needs. In this case, your veterinarian may be able to give activated charcoal, which moves toxins out of the body without being absorbed into the bloodstream, or intravenous fluids to help remove the toxins.
Treatment will be different if your dog has ingested chocolate and has become ill. Your dog’s clinical signs will determine appropriate treatment steps. It’s highly probable that your dog will need to be hospitalized. Most likely, your dog will need support, depending on clinical signs, through intravenous fluids, heart medications, anti-diarrhea or anti-nausea medicine, anti-seizure and other medications.
Additionally, continuous monitoring is necessary in a hospital environment if the dog is showing clinical signs of toxicity. If the dog is suffering severe toxicity, the outcome could be fatal if the dog isn’t monitored closely. Treatment in a hospital environment, depending on the severity of the toxicity, could be from one to several days.
Prognosis for Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs
For dogs that have consumed a small amount of chocolate and have mild clinical signs, the prognosis is good. In cases where dogs are suffering severe signs of toxicity, such as collapse and seizures, the prognosis is often a poor outcome.
Preventing Chocolate Toxicity
Considering the dangers of allowing your dog access to chocolate, not to mention the stress, and even guilt, it’s far better to prevent a case of chocolate poisoning than to deal with the consequences. Don’t allow your dog access to chocolate.
Put it out of reach. Some dogs figure out how to get on tables and counters. Purses aren’t a good place to stash a bit of chocolate either as some dogs are quite good at purse raiding. Chocolate should be stored in a secure cabinet or drawer that is impossible for your clever canine to access. And that includes cocoa powder and hot chocolate mix. Keep these stored in unreachable, secure locations.
Make sure children understand why they can’t leave chocolate where a dog can get it and to never give a dog chocolate for a treat. Be extra vigilant around all holidays when sweets are more likely to be in abundance and in places other than kitchen cabinets. Remind guests to be careful of chocolate.
Veterinarians see an uptick of chocolate poisoning cases around the holidays. Don’t let your dog be one of them. No one wants to remember a holiday as a time of tragedy to a beloved pet. Pets are family. And protecting them and providing a safe and loving home is the first responsibility of anyone who opens their home to a dog or other animal. They depend on their family for everything and that includes making sure curiosity, or a delightfully scented treat that could jeopardize their health and life, isn’t left within their reach.
Given the nature of chocolate toxicity, prevention is better than taking a chance on a poisoning case. The small amount of time it takes to make sure nothing’s left where a dog can find and eat it is a small price for keeping your pet safe and healthy.
There are many wonderful treats you can buy for your dog to take care of his sweet-tooth and let you feel good about giving them to him. Chocolate isn’t one of them.
Reach Out to Pewaukee, WI, Animal Hospital Immediately If Your Dog Eats Chocolate
Your best friend doesn’t know any better. He just knows it’s tasty. He depends on you to keep him out of harm’s way. And an understanding of the danger of chocolate and how to prevent problems will put you in the driver’s seat. Put the chocolate out of reach and grab a healthy treat, because your dog deserves the best.
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Since 1977, Pewaukee Veterinary Services has provided progressive veterinary medicine to pets of Pewaukee and the greater Milwaukee area. We put a strong emphasis on preventive medicine and alternative therapies aimed at keeping companion animals healthy and happy. Yet, if your pet is ill, there’s no better place to entrust their care. Our animal hospital in Pewaukee not only has the most advanced veterinary equipment in the area, but also the skilled veterinarians and staff to use it.