As you’re probably aware, dogs will beg for almost absolutely ANY human food that they ever come across. While you may have never seen a dog drool over lettuce, it’s highly probable. Though this may be adorable and it’s very tempting to give your pet some sweet treats from time to time, it’s important to remember that chocolate is poisonous to dogs and could make them very unwell. For some owners, just the mere thought of their pet scoffing chocolate sets alarm bells ringing.
Why Your Dog Shouldn’t Eat Chocolate
An ingredient found in chocolate called theobromine is toxic to dogs. Dogs can’t metabolize theobromine in the same way that humans can. Theobromine is particularly harmful to a dog’s guts, heart, central nervous system, and kidneys. While theobromine is found more predominantly in darker chocolate varieties, it’s also found in milk chocolate. Therefore, if your dog gets hold of a large number of chocolate treats, it can become an emergency, regardless of the type of chocolate they ate.
Of course, a large dog like can ingest a larger amount of chocolate than a smaller breed before it becomes poisonous, but they could still slowly build up toxic levels of theobromine in their system.
Signs and Symptoms of Chocolate Poisoning
Some common signs that your dog may have been poisoned by chocolate include:
- Vomiting (this may include blood)
- Rapid breathing
- Muscle tension
- Increased heart rate
- Lack of balance
What Can You Do
Though it’s imperative not to panic, it’s also essential to remember that urgent treatment may be needed for chocolate poisoning, depending on the circumstances.
You should take note of your dog’s weight, the type of chocolate they ate, how much of it they ate, and when. This information will help your vet to work out whether or not your dog has ingested a toxic amount of chocolate, and come up with appropriate treatment. Contact your vet as soon as possible for advice, or if the incident occurs out of hours, go to your nearest emergency veterinary clinic.
What About White Chocolate?
White chocolate, along with white chocolate products in general, is highly unlikely to be poisonous to your pet as it simply does not contain enough theobromine. However, white chocolate will probably cause your dog some stomach upset too, as it’s high in fat and contains buttermilk.
How Much Chocolate Is Too Much?
Let’s imagine that your dog weighs around 40 lbs. As little as 8 oz of dark chocolate could be fatal for them. This is why vets advise that you steer clear of feeding your pet any quantity of chocolate. The ‘danger zone’ for milk chocolate is a bit higher, around 15 oz. Bad news if your Golden retrievers eat chocolate! It’s better to stop this, but if you’ve given them a small amount of chocolate recently and are concerned, you can also use online dog chocolate toxicity calculators to provide you with some peace of mind.
Chocolate Variants and Their Effects
Dry cocoa powder is probably the most toxic variant of chocolate your pet can ingest – it can contain up to 1 oz of theobromine per 100 grams. Additionally, the most popular versions of drinking chocolate contain similar levels of theobromine in them as milk chocolate, so while it’s not as dangerous, amounts of around 100 to 200 mg could result in seizures in smaller dogs.
The variable which mainly determines the symptoms you will see in your pet is how much chocolate your dog ingests and the size of the dog ingesting it. For example, a dog who has eaten around 200 g of milk chocolate is likely to suffer from stomach problems and may start to vomit. As this increases, it becomes more likely that cardiovascular problems will occur. Anything over 700 g could result in seizures.
Sometimes you may be less fortunate and don’t know how much chocolate your dog has got his paws on. In these cases, it’s best to be cautious and call your vet if you’re worried. You shouldn’t wait for symptoms to show themselves either as they can take 6-12 hours to present. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Treating Chocolate Poisoning
To treat dogs with chocolate poisoning, vets will usually encourage your dog to vomit using a drug called apomorphine. They will then perform stomach pumping to flush the contents of your pet’s stomach with fluids. Finally, they’ll probably use activated charcoal to prevent theobromine from entering your dog’s blood. Early treatment will help your dog to recover faster and lower the potential costs of this treatment, so it’s imperative that you act fast.
Common Side Effects
Contrary to some of the positive effects of consuming dark chocolate seen in humans, such as improving blood flow and reducing blood pressure, the small benefits of chocolate for dogs are rendered null by its toxicity. To recap, here are common side effects of eating chocolate in dogs:
Small amounts of chocolate can cause stomach upset in your dog. It really does not take much chocolate to upset a dog’s gastrointestinal system- it’s best to avoid it at all costs where possible as you most likely will be left with messy repercussions of it, at the very least.
Dogs can suffer from severe illnesses and disorders as a result of eating larger amounts of chocolate. Again, the higher the amount, the more toxic chocolate becomes. Large amounts of chocolate can result in seizures, muscle tremors, internal bleeding, urinary incontinence, and even death.
Chocolate compromises a dog’s circulatory and respiratory systems. Hypertension, hyperthermia, and hypotension may occur, and your dog could even slip into a coma. Respiratory failure and cardiac arrhythmias are also possible. Unfortunately, these conditions can result in death.
Chocolate ingestion can even lead to pancreatitis and diabetes. Long-term ingestion of chocolate can lead to pancreatitis. Over time, this inflammation of the pancreas could result in diabetes, fever, and dehydration.
Finally, if you think your dog is already pretty hyperactive, you’ll be blown away by the levels of energy produced by chocolate poisoning. Symptoms include unfocused eyes, compulsive movements like chasing tails, running in circles, and non-stop frantic behavior. Again, this behavior is typical of chocolate poisoning because theobromine is a similar stimulant to caffeine. They are both methylxanthines, and both cause these displays of bursting energy.
To conclude, if you think your beloved pet may have ingested chocolate, even if they’re not showing any symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately and provide any details you can where possible.
In these situations, it’s important to remain as calm as possible, as panicking may also raise your already stressed pet’s anxiety. We all want the best for our four-legged friends, so to make sure no harm comes to them, you should stay away from chocolate altogether.