With the holidays comes a frightful and harmful scenario for our dogs: all the sweet treats. We must keep an eye on any chocolate goodies. It’s true, chocolate is toxic to dogs and may hurt our canine friends; however, toxicity level depends on many factors including how much chocolate a dog has consumed, the type of chocolate, and the size of the dog. As dog parents, it’s important to understand this harmful situation. Ingesting chocolate can lead to potentially devastating consequences. So, what do we do if our pet consumes chocolate and how do we recognize the signs of a possible poisoning?
How do I prevent my dog from indulging in chocolate?
First, chocolate candy and baking items should be handled like toxic cleaning supplies. Keep them locked up and out of reach. When storing chocolate items, think about the dog’s size, behaviors, and ability to jump and climb. If the dog can access the counter, this isn’t a good hiding place. Watch for anything thrown in the kitchen trash or the outdoor trash cans. Make sure this activity is conducted behind closed doors and treats are promptly stored away. Around holidays such as Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and Easter, pay a little extra attention to the food items being brought into the home. Easily forgotten items such as hot chocolate, baking chocolate, and cocoa powder are a risk and must be stored safely as well. Family members and guests should be reminded of this safety precaution.
What do I do if my dog eats chocolate?
DO NOT PANIC! Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine which can raise the dog’s heart rate and excite the nervous system. Unlike humans, dogs metabolize theobromine slowly. If consumed, there may be changes in the dog’s behavior. At this point, it’s important to call the veterinarian. In the meantime, pay careful attention to the dog as symptoms may not arise for up to 6 to 12 hours. Common symptoms of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, rigid muscles, increased urination, and excessive thirst. Extreme symptoms include seizures and cardiac failure. However, there is no need to hit the panic button and fear the worst if the dog has only consumed a small amount of chocolate. As a dog parent, calling the vet is still the smartest option.
What should I know moving forward?
Being aware that certain chocolates are more harmful than others is an important tool in a dog parent’s arsenal. A general rule of thumb is the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is. The toxicity level depends upon the pet’s weight and the amount ingested. For every 10 pounds of weight on the dog, approximately 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate is toxic. However, for more diluted chocolates like milk chocolate, every 10 pounds of weight on the dog, 3.5 ounces of milk chocolate is toxic. Regardless, all chocolate ingestion requires an immediate call to your vet.
There is no real remedy for chocolate poisoning in dogs. Before dialing the vet, it would be helpful to know: the weight of the dog, what type of chocolate was consumed, and what the amount was. So, dogs vomit the ingested chocolate up on its own. However, the vet may want to see the dog to err on the side of caution. In this case, they may induce vomiting to expel any undigested chocolate and toxins, flush the dog’s stomach, or give it a dose of activated charcoal to absorb any remaining toxins before they reach the bloodstream. Keep in mind that early treatment will help the dog recover more quickly.
So, as we purchase our candy this season, be wary of the chocolate brought into the home. It is bad for our dogs and may cause symptoms from mild to fatal. We need to be cautious dog parents who try to create safe environments for our canine companions.