If you are a chocolate lover, you understand your pet’s desire to go on a binge. But if your dog has just eaten chocolate, you might be cursing yourself for not having your vet on speed dial. First things first: try to stay calm. It’s important to know that some kinds of chocolate are more dangerous than others. A large dog is unlikely to come to much harm from eating the odd chocolate chip cookie. However, chocolate is still a serious health risk, and the most important thing to do is to contact your veterinarian immediately.
What Makes Chocolate Dangerous to Dogs
Three factors affect the possibility of your dog becoming ill after consuming chocolate: the type of chocolate, the amount of chocolate, and the size of your dog.
Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine. These ingredients stimulate a dog’s nervous system and increase his heart rate. Dark chocolates with higher quantities of these ingredients are more dangerous.
Types of Chocolate
Common types of chocolate, from most to least toxic, are:
- Cocoa powder
- Unsweetened baker’s chocolate
- Dark chocolate
- Milk chocolate
- White chocolate
Amount of Chocolate
The risk of poisoning increases based on the quantity of chocolate your dog consumes. However, big dogs are generally able to consume more chocolate before experiencing adverse effects.
- Baker’s chocolate: Any amount could be poisonous
- Dark chocolate: More than 0.13 ounces per pound of body weight could be poisonous
- Milk chocolate: More than 0.5 ounces per pound of body weight could be poisonous
For reference, one chocolate chip is about .02 ounces. One ounce contains about 54 chips. Bear in mind that very young dogs, very old dogs, and dogs with heart conditions are at an increased risk of sensitivity to poisoning.
Symptoms of Chocolate Poisoning
If you suspect your dog has consumed chocolate, there are several symptoms to watch out for. These signs usually appear within 6 to 12 hours and indicate you should contact a veterinarian immediately:
- Increased urination
- Tremors and restlessness
- Abnormal heart rate
- Seizures or collapsing
Treatments for Chocolate Poisoning
Dogs often vomit after consuming chocolate, and this helps to expel the hazardous ingredients. If your dog doesn’t vomit, you may be able to induce vomiting with a dose of 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide for every 20 pounds of weight. However, never attempt this without first consulting with your veterinarian. Because your dog’s body reabsorbs theobromine through the bladder wall, it’s important to keep his bladder empty by going on frequent walks. In extreme cases, a vet may use a urinary catheter.
Your vet may also employ other methods to help excrete the toxins, including doses of activated charcoal and IV fluids. Vets may use sedatives and other medicine to control a dog’s heart rate and blood pressure and to reduce the risk of seizures. Symptoms can last for up to 72 hours, during which time you should monitor your dog closely.
Reducing the Risk of Chocolate Poisoning
While chocolate is poisonous to dogs, it remains a tempting treat they want to eat. Leaving candy bars, cookies, and baker’s chocolate within reach of a dog is a recipe for disaster. Always store chocolate safely. Remind guests to your home that they shouldn’t give your dog any candy no matter how much he begs. They should always check with you first if they’re in doubt. Supervise small children who are eating anything with chocolate. Things fall on the floor.
The American Kennel Club recommends teaching your dog the command “leave it” to prevent your pup from snatching food scraps that fall on the ground. If your best efforts fail and your dog still manages to snap up some chocolate, always contact your vet as soon as possible. Early treatment greatly improves the chances of your dog recovering.