For most dog owners, it is a constant battle between you and your dog to see what your dog can and cannot eat, and what your dog will try to eat anyway despite your best efforts. Sometimes it is because dogs are curious about the smell of whatever you have made, and sometimes it is because the dog is just trying to play around. Regardless, there are times when you have more reason to keep your dog away from the food that you want to eat yourself.
Despite dogs trying to eat foods that their owners eat, dogs cannot eat a lot of the same things that their people can, as they have different digestive systems that are incapable of handling certain foods, such as onion or garlic. One of the most well-known foods that dogs cannot eat is chocolate. Chocolate contains chemicals that can affect the dog’s nervous and circulatory systems, resulting in anything from unpleasantries to death.
Most people make sure to keep their dog away from any foods containing chocolate. However, as most dog owners know, dogs can be sneaky and may try and lick up some of the food if you aren’t constantly watching them. If the food that they ate up happened to be a chocolate chip cookie, you need to know what to do and be ready to take action, if necessary.
Assessing the Danger
Before you go into panic mode because my dog ate a chocolate chip cookie, the first thing you should do is stop and think about how much risk your dog is at. The chocolate’s effects will not be immediate (symptoms usually begin between four and 24 hours after consumption), so you have time to figure out what to do without endangering your dog. The reason you need to do this is because, for some dogs, extremely small amounts of chocolate are not enough to put your dog at risk.
For example, a large and hefty dog such as a Mastiff will be able to eat a single chocolate chip without experiencing any side effects, whereas a toy Chihuahua may be at more risk. A dog who eats milk chocolate is more likely to experience the effects of the milk before the actual chocolate, whereas a dog who eats dark chocolate or pure cacao powder will be in far more danger.
The general consensus is that the larger the dog is compared to the amount of chocolate eaten, the safer it will be. The less actual cacao powder in the chocolate, the less danger your dog will be in. Dark chocolate, baker’s chocolate, cacao nibs, and similar are more dangerous for your dog than white chocolate, milk chocolate, and chocolate chips. If you want to be more certain, there are calculators out there that will give you a rough estimate of how much danger your dog’s health is in.
What Should You Look for?
The first thing you should do, regardless of what any calculators say about your dog’s potential outcome, is to call your dog’s vet. Your dog’s vet will be able to give you more detailed instructions on how to monitor your dog and they will have a better sense of whether or not it is better to bring the dog in for monitoring.
If you are monitoring your dog at home, you will be doing so for a fair bit of time, since it can take up to 24 hours for the symptoms to develop as the dog digests the chocolate. The symptoms of chocolate consumption can vary from being a mild annoyance for both you and your dog (such as vomiting, diarrhea, the need to urinate more, and restlessness) to putting your dog at risk for an emergency (seizures, tremors, increased heart rate, and collapsing).
When you are monitoring your dog, first and foremost you should listen to what your vet says about when you should bring the dog to the vet. Generally, if your dog starts showing symptoms of having its heart or nervous system being affected, such as tremors and seizures, you need to bring the dog to the vet immediately. While vomiting and diarrhea are no fun for you or your dog, they do not necessarily pose as much of an immediate danger.
Can a Vet Help?
Depending on how much chocolate your dog ate and how soon after you contacted the vet, the vet may be able to alleviate the problem. Just as people can have induced vomiting and can have activated charcoal to absorb the toxins for foods that they have eaten, the same type of treatment is given to dogs who have had chocolate. It won’t be a pleasant experience for your dog, but it will make sure that the toxins are expelled before they can enter the bloodstream and cause more damage.
Vets can also treat the symptoms as they happen, if the toxins have already been absorbed into the dog’s bloodstream. For vomiting and diarrhea, IV fluids can be given to restore hydration and medication can be given to try and help the dog be more comfortable. Medicine can be given for seizures and tremors, and vet clinics have the equipment necessary to keep your dog safe and healthy throughout the monitoring period.
Even if your dog is already absorbing the toxins, taking it to the vet will ensure that it is under the watchful eye of people who have resources to treat the symptoms as best as they can.
What Can You Do for Your Dog?
If you are at home and monitoring your dog, there are some things that you can do to try and ease the discomfort as you either wait for symptoms to develop or monitor your dog to make sure that they don’t get worse. You should never try to medicate your dog at home and you shouldn’t try home remedies that involve getting the dog to consume something, as these can cause more harm than help for your dog.
You should focus on trying to offer the dog comfort and care so that it is not quite as stressed out. It likely won’t be up for playing or treats, but it may feel better to have you sitting near it and gently stroking it. Don’t be upset or offended if the dog doesn’t seem to want company though, as it will likely be in pain depending on how much chocolate it ate.
Even though it may feel as if you aren’t doing anything for your dog, the best thing you can do is simply monitor your dog and be there for it if it does want to be comforted. Once your dog has expelled the toxins and gotten past the worst of it, you can pamper your dog with as much attention as it wants.