Educated dog owners know that chocolate is one of the worst things you can feed your dog. But as we all know, accidents can happen. Guests unknowingly leave food within your dog’s reach and before you know it, down the hatch it goes. Kids who have learned that sharing is caring innocently dole out some M&Ms to the family dog, thinking they’re giving him or her a treat. Any way it happens, if your dog has eaten chocolate, it’s definitely a cause for concern.
Why is Chocolate Bad for Dogs?
Let’s look at the science behind this — exactly why is chocolate bad for dogs? Theobromine is a chemical compound found in chocolate that affects dogs. Humans have no problem metabolizing theobromine, lucky us! A dog’s digestive system processes this compound slower, resulting in toxic build up. The higher the content of cacao in the chocolate, or the darker it is, the higher the content of theobromine will be present. So, dark chocolate has more theobromine than milk chocolate, and white chocolate contains only trace amounts of the substance.
There are varying degrees of chocolate poisoning in dogs. The reaction will depend on the size of your dog, how much chocolate they have consumed, and what type of chocolate it was. Most large breed dogs can consume a small amount of chocolate without having adverse effects. Whereas, if a small dog ate the same amount of chocolate, they will likely show signs. Typically, a very concerning dose is about one ounce per pound of body weight. A more serious dose of milk chocolate for dogs would be around five ounces per pound of body weight, For context, a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar weighs 1.55 ounces!
Signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs should begin to appear within three and up to 12 hours. A small amount of chocolate may initially give your dog diarrhea, an upset stomach, and/or make them vomit. However, large amounts of theobromine can cause:
- Muscle Spasms
- Internal bleeding
- Heart attack or heart palpitations
What to Do if Your Dog Ate Chocolate
If your dog ate a lot of chocolate for its size or is showing signs of chocolate poisoning, seek help from a veterinarian right away. The typical treatment for chocolate poisoning in dogs is to induce vomiting as soon as possible and expel any undigested chocolate from their stomach. Toy dogs will be the most susceptible and need care immediately. Your vet may just recommend monitoring your dog for signs of chocolate poisoning, depending on your pup’s size. They may also give your dogs doses of activated charcoal, which helps detox their system of theobromine. Other medications and IV fluids might be administered as well. Dogs who experience seizures may be held for further observation.
Obviously, when it comes to chocolate and your furry family member, the best treatment is prevention. Take extra care around holidays like Easter, Halloween, and Christmas when chocolate treats are more prevalent. Keep chocolate out of reach of your dog and instruct guests and children not to feed your dog anything out of the ordinary.
Training your dog to not steal food is also helpful for those moments when you can’t watch that tempting chocolate birthday cake sitting on the counter. Teaching them the “leave it” command can be very handy when food is accidentally spilled on the floor. Some dogs don’t heed commands and some are super quick, so if he or she happens to consume some chocolate before you can make an interception, keep a close eye on them and take them to the vet ASAP if they start to exhibit any of the aforementioned symptoms.