What to Do When Your Dog Accidentally Consumes Chocolate?

Chocolate is toxic to dogs; depending on the type and amount consumed and your dog’s weight, it could result in a severe medical emergency. If you know your dog has eaten chocolate, watch for signs of toxicity. But what do you do after? 

If you know your dog has eaten chocolate, watch for signs of toxicity. Learn how much chocolate is too much, which types are the most dangerous, and what signs to look for that may indicate your dog requires treatment.


Why is Chocolate Dangerous to Dogs? 

Chocolate is poisonous to dogs. While chocolate ingestion is rarely fatal, it can cause serious illness. Chocolate is toxic because it contains theobromine, as well as caffeine. Theobromine, a toxin found in chocolate, is very similar to caffeine. 

Medicine uses both chemicals as a diuretic, heart stimulants, blood vessel dilators, and smooth muscle relaxants. Dogs do not have the same ability as humans to metabolize theobromine and caffeine. That is why dogs are more sensitive to the effects of chemicals.


How Much is Too Much Chocolate?

The amount of toxic theobromine in chocolate varies depending on the type. Chocolate that is darker and more bitter is more dangerous to dogs. Baking and gourmet dark chocolate are high in theobromine content, with 130-450 mg per ounce. Milk chocolate contains only 44-58 mg per ounce.

With only 0.25 mg of theobromine per ounce of chocolate, white chocolate rarely causes chocolate poisoning. Even if the amount consumed is not toxic, dogs can become ill from the fat and sugar in chocolate. In severe cases or dogs with more sensitive stomachs, these can cause pancreatitis.

To put this in context, a medium-sized dog weighing 50 pounds would only need to consume 1 ounce of baker’s chocolate or 9 ounces of milk chocolate to show signs of poisoning. Small amounts of milk chocolate are not harmful to many dogs.


What Do You Do If Your Dog Ate Chocolate? 

If you suspect your dog has consumed chocolate, contact your veterinarian immediately or even poison control. If your veterinarian is not available, some services offer live chat and video options to connect you with one. Your veterinarian may recommend that you monitor your dog for the clinical signs listed above and call back if his condition worsens based on his size and the amount and type of chocolate consumed.

Sometimes, the vet may prefer you bring your dog into the clinic. Suppose your pet ate the chocolate within the last two hours. In that case, your veterinarian may induce vomiting and administer several doses of activated charcoal, which moves toxins out of the body without allowing them to enter the bloodstream. In more severe cases, veterinary intervention may be required to provide additional treatment, such as medications or IV fluids, to alleviate the poisoning’s effects. Seizures in dogs may necessitate overnight monitoring at the clinic.


What is the Treatment for Chocolate Poisoning? 

Treatment is determined by the amount and type of chocolate consumed. Decontamination, including inducing vomiting and administering activated charcoal to prevent theobromine absorption into the body, may be all that is required if treated early. Treatments with activated charcoal can be repeated to reduce theobromine resorption and recirculation.

To help stabilize a dog and promote theobromine excretion, supportive treatments such as intravenous fluid therapy are commonly used. Any dog that has consumed a toxic amount of chocolate should be closely monitored for signs of agitation, vomiting, diarrhea, nervousness, irregular heart rhythm, and high blood pressure. Medication to treat agitation and other symptoms may also be required.


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