- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Some dog owners love to feed their friend everything their heart desires, including sweet treats. But many new dog owners are often shocked to find out that not only is chocolate bad for your dog—it’s actually poison. Even experienced dog owners can be caught off guard by chocolate’s effects on their pet. If your dog ate chocolate, here’s what you need to know.
Why is chocolate bad for your dog? As we have written before, chocolate contains a chemical compound called theobromine, which turns into xanthine. Xanthine can overload your pup’s central nervous system.
Keep a close eye on behavioural changes, which might indicate if your pup has gotten into the sweet stash without you knowing it.
Signs your dog has eaten chocolate include:
Be especially on alert if your dog is experiencing tremors, increased heart rate, or begin to have seizures.
First, determine what kind of chocolate your dog has eaten, and then, determine how much your dog has eaten.
Different types of chocolate products have stronger levels of toxicity (or methylxanthine concentration) for dogs, according to the Merck Vet Manual. Cocoa powder is the worst culprit; after that is unsweetened baker’s chocolate, followed by semisweet chocolate, and then, dark chocolate. The least dangerous (but still poison for your pup) is milk chocolate.
The second thing to consider is how big your dog is vs. how much they might have eaten. Did you leave a larger Cadbury’s milk chocolate bar on the living room table, and it’s entirely gone? It might be worth a trip to the vet. But if just a piece is missing then monitor your dog for the above-listed signs for a few hours. Call your vet and ask for advice. You can also call the Animal Poison Helpline at 01202 50 9000.
Vets Now has a great Chocolate Toxicity Calculator to help guide you to determine the size of dog vs. the size of chocolate’s toxicity. If your medium-sized dog has eaten an ounce of dark chocolate, the toxicity meter is only two bars and you should monitor. But that same amount for your 13-pound Mini-Dachshund is much more toxic and reaches to the middle of the meter.
If your dog is exhibiting several symptoms and ate an amount that’s on the higher side of the chart, you should err on the side of caution and take them in to the vet.
There are a few things you can do at home if your dog has just consumed chocolate.
Induce vomiting: Normally you don’t want your dog to throw up everywhere, but this is a special case. Dr Dawn Ruben suggests taking only three percent solution of Hydrogen Peroxide (not the concentrated six percent solution used for dying hair) and putting one teaspoon (5ml) for every for every 10 pounds (4.5kg) of body weight. (so 1o ml for 20 pounds or 9kg), into food or in a dropper to feed her to induce vomiting.
Give your dog activated charcoal: Only give activated charcoal to your dog on the advice of your vet and if you know that your dog has just eaten the chocolate and isn’t yet exhibiting any serious signs of contamination. (The charcoal must come into contact with the contaminant in order for it to work).
Make sure your pet gets plenty of fluids: Both of these steps will dehydrate your dog, so make sure they drink loads of water. The more water they drink the faster they will expel the poison.
Katie Lisko, an experienced dog owner, knows all too well about the dangers of chocolate for dogs. She once came home from a family dinner to find Benji, her Bichon Frise, unresponsive on the floor. As he lapsed into a seizure, the only clue she needed lay close by: the torn wrapper of a large chocolate bar.
Over the phone, the emergency vet checked the ratio of chocolate to her dog’s weight. If she didn’t get him there fast, she was told she could lose him. “It felt like our car broke the sound barrier as we rushed to save him,” she recounts.
Benji’s stomach was pumped full of charcoal, his fluffy white coat turning ash grey by the end of the three-hour ordeal. She learned several hard lessons that day. “We’re so careful about dog-proofing now,” Lisko adds.
The dog came out of it fine in the end and was back to his usual exuberant self in a few days. Not every dog is that lucky, but a little mindfulness can fully prevent stories like Benji’s.
The easiest way to prevent your pup from ingesting something he shouldn’t is to view your home, garden, and even the pavement or dog park through his eyes. Dog-proof like you would toddler-proof: keep cleaning fluids and medications in high cabinets, make sure toys can’t be swallowed or chewed into pieces small enough to swallow.
Keep houseplants on tall tables, out of your dog’s reach. Make sure all of the trash cans and recycling bins in the house have locking lids.
Chocolate is certainly bad for your dog, but many other common foods and household objects can pose problems.