July 28, 2019

First 2 Hours: My Dog Ate Chocolate

Two of my favorite things in the world; dogs and chocolate! While great on their own, it’s widely known that these two don’t mix. Today we’re going to talk about what to do should your beloved companion find that box of truffles you’ve been hiding away from everyone else in the house.

What you need to know about dogs and chocolate:

  • Chocolate and any cocoa products are poisonous to dogs.
  • The toxic component in chocolate is called theobromine (nerdy side fact: despite being called theobromine, it does not in fact contain the chemical element bromine).
  • Different types of chocolate contain different levels of theobromine; milk and white chocolate have the lowest levels, while cooking and dark chocolate have the highest.
  • Weight matters: it will take much less chocolate to poison an 8 pound Yorkshire Terrier than a 70 lbs Labrador Retriever.

0 - 15 Minutes

If you catch your dog in the act, remove any available chocolate and try to retrieve any remaining chocolate from your dog’s mouth. Just one (1) ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight could still cause serious problems, so it’s important to prevent as much consumption as possible. It is very likely that you will not catch your dog red-handed. Should you discover your furry friend has already eaten chocolate, the first thing to do is stay calm. Next, determine what kind of chocolate was eaten and if possible how much. With this information, the next best course of action is to call your veterinarian; be sure to explain the situation with as much detail as possible.

As we mentioned before, milk chocolate typically has lower levels of that nasty theobromine, so if you have a larger dog who eats a small amount of milk chocolate you may not need to rush them to your vet’s office. You will, however, want to monitor their behavior over the next 72 hours. Remember! No amount of chocolate is ever safe for a dog to eat. Dark and semi-sweet cooking chocolate, whilst delicious for humans, should be regarded with increased urgency when consumed by dogs. If you have discovered that your dog has eaten one of these types of chocolates, it is best to call your vet right away.

30 - 60 Minutes

Depending on the size of dog and amount of chocolate ingested, your vet may recommend you monitor their behavior very closely. Symptoms from chocolate poisoning can take from 6 to 12 hours to show up, but now is a good time to familiarize yourself with the symptoms. The most common symptoms or chocolate poisoning are:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness
  • Shaking
  • Panting
  • Increased urination
  • Seizures
  • Shaking
  • Increased water consumption

During this time it’s important to try to keep your dog calm, and make sure there is plenty of fresh water available for them to drink.

1 - 2 Hours

In more serious cases your dog will need treatment by a veterinarian. As a pet owner it is important to know some of the most common treatments:

Induced vomiting: While the process is super gross, it’s also one of the best ways to get most of the toxins out of your dog’s body.

IV fluids: These help to flush the stomach and further remove any remaining toxins.

Activated charcoal: Ingestion of activated charcoal prevents the harmful substances found in chocolate (that nasty theobromine) from getting into your dog’s blood. Your veterinarian may recommend repeating this treatment more than once to maximize the chances of blocking those toxins, so don’t be surprised if they send you home with a little bottle of gooey black stuff.

In closing

Dogs love to eat. They don’t know that eating a candy bar is a great way to ensure an unexpected vet visit. As a dog owner it’s important to understand your own dog’s behaviors, and keep any troublesome foods well out of reach. In most cases of chocolate poisoning the patient recovers well with no lasting health issues. Chances for a full recovery are increased when your know what to look for and act fast.

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