An inevitable truth: with the holidays comes chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate. And this means that we must keep an eye on our sweets to keep our pets safe.
Another truth is that chocolate is toxic to dogs and may hurt our canine friends; however, the 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 the potentially harmful situation that can arise when our pets indulge in our holiday treats.
So, what do we do if our pet consumes chocolate, and how do we recognize the signs of possible chocolate poisoning in dogs?
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 sealed 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. When throwing chocolate goods in the kitchen garbage or outdoor trash cans, be sure that the lids are tightly shut. If you have an extra curious pup, you might consider using child-proofing hinges or bungee chords to ensure your furry friend keeps their nose out of the trash.
Around holidays such as Halloween and Valentine’s Day, 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 just as safely as pre-packaged, holiday-themed candy. Visiting 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. If your dog exhibits physical or behavioral changes, it’s important to call the veterinarian. If you don’t notice changes right away, pay careful attention to your dog as symptoms may not arise for up to 6 to 12 hours.
Common symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs:
- Rapid breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Rigid muscles
- Increased urination
- 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. For more diluted chocolates like milk chocolate, every 10 pounds of weight on the dog, 3.5 ounces of milk chocolate is toxic.
Before dialing the vet, it would be helpful to know the weight of the dog, what type of chocolate was consumed and how much was consumed. Typically, dogs vomit the ingested chocolate on their own; however, your vet may want to see your 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.
As you purchase candy this season, be wary of the chocolate brought into your home. In some cases, eating chocolate can cause mild to fatal symptoms for our pets. Be sure to keep the chocolate out of sight so that you can enjoy it without worry!