Even dogs can’t resist the sweet taste of chocolate and once they taste it, they’ll want more. But this is a bad thing for dogs considering certain types of chocolate can be very lethal to your dog’s health. Unfortunately, chocolate poisoning in dogs is more common than you might have heard. However, if your dog ate a small amount of chocolate, you don’t need to panic. This article teaches you all you need to do if your dog eats chocolate.
Why is Chocolate Harmful to Your Dog?
Most types of chocolate contain caffeine and theobromine which can affect your dog’s heart rate, the nervous system, and even the kidneys. Dogs aren’t able to metabolize theobromine and caffeine as well as humans do. This makes them more vulnerable to the chemicals and if taken in large amounts, it could cause seizures or death.
Which Types of Chocolate Are Most Harmful to Your Dog?
As earlier mentioned, theobromine is the most predominant toxin in chocolate. It’s a natural stimulant found in the cocoa bean. Both theobromine and caffeine are used medicinally to relax the muscles, dilate the blood vessels and stimulate the heart. However, the reaction is the opposite in dogs and if not treated immediately, it can lead to complications. The risk chocolate poses to your dog depends on the type and amount of chocolate ingested, and the weight of your dog. Darker chocolate contains the highest concentration of theobromine. To put it into perspective, here’s a breakdown of the types of chocolate in order of theobromine content:
- Baker’s chocolate, cocoa powder, and dark chocolate have the highest concentration of theobromine – 130-450mg/ounce making it the most toxic chocolate.
- Milk chocolate contains about 40-60mg/ounce.
- White chocolate has 0.25mg/ounce making it the least toxic.
To explain this further, depending on the concentration of theobromine poisoning, a 50g milk chocolate can affect smaller dogs while it will take a 400g of the same chocolate to affect bigger dogs.
Symptoms of Chocolate Poisoning in Your Dog
Signs that your dog has eaten chocolate may appear within the first 6-12 hours and can last up to 72 hours. The most common symptoms include:
- Increased thirst
- Excessive urination
- Muscle tremors
- Elevated heart rate
- Heart failure which could lead to Death
The risks are higher in older dogs or dogs with heart conditions.
What to Do if Your Dog Eats Chocolate
If you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, don’t panic. Your first response should be to contact your veterinarian or contact Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680) immediately. Vet specialists will provide emergency care that you won’t be able to deliver at home. If the closest vet’s office is miles away, you might try to induce vomiting. Sometimes, your dog may involuntarily start throwing up after ingesting chocolate. However, if it doesn’t, you can try to trigger the vomiting. Here’s what you can do:
- Take your dog for a 15-minute walk. The physical activity could induce vomiting.
- Give your dog grass. Naturally, dogs eat grass if they ingest something that interferes with their digestive system. The grass could make the dog throw up, thereby, eliminating the chocolate from the stomach.
At the vet’s clinic, vomiting is induced by medications administered to your dog, followed by activated charcoal to block further absorption of theobromine into the dog’s body. Additionally, your vet could provide intravenous fluid to promote the excretion of theobromine and stabilize your dog. It’s necessary to monitor your dog for any signs of chocolate poisoning overnight to ensure that the threat has been neutralized. If treated promptly, the prognosis is usually good even if the dog ate large amounts of chocolate. That’s why immediate action is critical.
How can I Prevent My Dog from Eating Chocolate?
Dogs can sometimes develop bad cravings just like humans. If you think your dog has developed a taste for chocolates:
- Put away chocolate and items containing cocoa powder. Store these items on a high shelf where your dog can’t reach. Also, remind your children to avoid leaving chocolate pieces on tables or throwing them in the garden. The holidays are the riskiest times because of the goodies that we like to indulge in.
- Teach your dog the command “leave it”: This command could save your dog just in the nick of time. Plus, it’s an easy command to train your dog.
- Get your dog special chocolate brands made just for dogs. These chocolate imitations are safe for dog consumption since they don’t contain harmful chemicals.
Chocolate may be toxic to your dog or cat. But with these tips, you can save your dog’s life and train him to avoid developing a sweet tooth.