So, your dog ate chocolate.
This seems like every dog parent's nightmare. Maybe your dog got into your baking chocolate, or maybe they snatched a few chocolate chip cookies from the counter.
If your dog eats any amount of chocolate, what are you supposed to do? Preparation is key.
Acting quickly and learning how to recognize the signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs is critical to keeping your dog safe.
Today, Sundays will share everything you need to know and what to do if your dog eats chocolate.
What Are the Dangers of Chocolate for Dogs?
It’s no secret that you shouldn’t give your dog chocolate. Chocolate is toxic to dogs and could lead to a severe medical emergency. If your dog consumes chocolate, they could experience serious health issues concerning their heart and central nervous system.
What makes chocolate so dangerous for dogs? Let’s take a closer look below.
Theobromine and Caffeine
The main reason chocolate is so dangerous for dogs is its theobromine and caffeine content.
Originally discovered in 1841, theobromine is the most potent chemical compound in the chocolate family.
This plant alkaloid is responsible for the slightly bitter taste of plain, pure chocolate. It’s also responsible for most of chocolate’s harmful effects on dogs.
Theobromine is nitrogen-based, like cocaine, nicotine, caffeine, and strychnine. It’s no wonder that chocolate doesn’t sit well with our furry friends.
Chocolate also contains caffeine, which can be toxic for your pup, too. Even caffeine that does not come from chocolate can be harmful to dogs. Sources including coffee grounds, tea bags, or caffeine pills can increase heart rate, cause hyperactivity, and even lead to fatality in cats and dogs.
What Types of Chocolate Are the Most Dangerous for Dogs?
Different types of chocolates have varying side effects. Theobromine and caffeine are much more concentrated and abundant in darker chocolates. Milk chocolate and white chocolate contain less of this chemical and thus pose fewer risks for your pup (in fact, many white chocolates don’t pose a toxicity risk for your pup because they contain so minimal theobromine).
While there is no “safe” type of chocolate for dogs, some types of chocolate are more and less toxic.
For instance, dry cocoa powder, cocoa bean hulls, unsweetened chocolate, or baker’s chocolate all contain high levels of theobromine and caffeine and are all severely dangerous for dogs, even if they only eat small amounts of chocolate.
Semisweet chocolate and sweet dark chocolate are less toxic to dogs while still containing these harmful ingredients. However, it is always best to err on the side of caution, as it is still possible for your pup to consume toxic amounts of chocolate that may do a lot of damage even if it’s not fatal.
Milk chocolate and white chocolate have the lowest concentrations of theobromine and caffeine, making them the least dangerous for dogs. Even still, it’s essential to keep this food out of reach of dogs.
How Does Chocolate Affect Your Dog’s Health?
What are the specific effects that chocolate has on your dog’s health? The main risks involve the heart and the central nervous system.
Chocolate can severely impact your dog’s heart by speeding up their heart rate and straining the heart. Ingestion of chocolate can also stimulate the nervous system in dogs.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs?
If your dog eats chocolate, it’s important to recognize the signs of chocolate poisoning. You may notice increased heart rate, restlessness, increased urine output, or even fever. Your dog may also develop skin redness or a blushed skin tone.
Chocolate toxicity can also lead to high blood pressure or stomach problems like severe vomiting and diarrhea. In the worst cases, chocolate ingestion can lead to coma or death in dogs.
In addition, your dog may seem excessively thirsty, may increase panting, may pace back and forth, display tremors, seem nervous, have seizures, be overexcited, or even have a heart attack from chocolate ingestion.
What Should You Do If Your Dog Eats Chocolate?
So, your dog snacked on some chocolate while you had your back turned. What now?
If your dog does eat chocolate, here’s what you should do.
Call Your Veterinarian
The first and most critical step if your dog eats chocolate is to call your veterinarian. Call the pet poison hotline (855-213-6680) if your veterinarian isn't available. They will be able to give you further instructions regarding what to do.
If you have a small breed dog who ate a large amount of baker’s chocolate or cocoa powder, seek medical attention immediately. It’s critical to get emergency medical help if this occurs. However, if you have a larger breed dog who simply ate a small amount of milk chocolate, you may be able to address the problem at home with the guidance of a vet on the phone.
Your veterinarian will advise you on what to do next, depending on your situation.
It’s also important to closely monitor your pup’s symptoms and behavior. From the moment you discover that your dog has eaten chocolate to the moment the doctor has cleared them, pay close attention to their every move.
If you notice gastrointestinal upset, vomiting, diarrhea, changes in behavior, lethargy, fatigue, or convulsing, this is an emergency and your dog should be taken to the vet immediately.
Seek Treatment for Chocolate Poisoning
There are many different ways your vet may treat a dog who ate too much chocolate.
First, they may simply induce vomiting if it’s been less than two hours. The vomiting will help remove any chocolate that’s still sitting in the stomach, thus removing any leftover toxins that haven’t been absorbed into the bloodstream yet.
They may also give your dog activated charcoal to help absorb the toxins from the bloodstream.
In severe cases, more drastic measures may be necessary. Some veterinarians may use an IV to transport fluids or medications to your pup that can help reverse the effects of the toxicity. If your dog has exhibited signs of seizure, your vet may keep them overnight.
Tips for Keeping Chocolate Away From Your Pup
It’s no secret that dogs are curious. Even when we keep food high up on the counters, some dogs can find a way to get to them. Dogs are known for getting into human foods they shouldn’t, which is, in most cases, harmless albeit a little frustrating.
However, if your dog finds their way into toxic food or candy, like chocolate, you could be looking at serious health risks and a trip to the emergency center.
It’s best to keep chocolate safe and far from your dog’s reach. How can you do this? We’ve got a few tips.
Consider keeping any baker’s chocolate or chocolate products in a sealed container. You can use food storage containers or a container with a child lock on it. If your dog is extra nosey, you can even use child locks for your cabinets or pantries to ensure your dog can’t get into your food.
You can also master the “leave it” command for your dog. This command can help in all areas of dog behavior and training. Work on training your dog not to eat something when you say “leave it.” Once they learn this command, you can drop food on the ground without worrying about your dog getting into any food they’re not supposed to.
If your furry friend seems to get into food no matter what you do, consider whether leaving them home alone is a good idea. You can explore doggy daycares, crate options, or even set aside a room for them to stay in while you’re not home.
Safe Sweet Treats for Your Dog
Chocolate seems like a delicious treat for humans and dogs alike, but feeding it to your dog can have serious consequences. What sweet treats can your dog have? There are a few surprising ingredients to consider!
Many whole fruits and vegetables are excellent for pups. They’re not only tasty and fresh, but they provide a range of essential nutrients that your furry friend can enjoy.
Sweet fruits include strawberries, oranges, cranberries, apples, tart cherries, and blueberries. These fruits are full of antioxidants, vitamins K, C, B, and E, riboflavin, folate, thiamine, fiber, and niacin. Plus, they’re delicious foods for our dogs to enjoy. Incorporate these foods into your dog’s main kibble, or feed them as snacks every once in a while.
To learn more about what your dog can eat and what they should avoid, take a look at our blog.
Safe, Sweet Nutrition for your Pup
As a dog parent, you care about finding safe, sweet nutrition for your pup. It's important to have the right food, from the snacks you give them and the treats you use to the food they eat at mealtimes.
That’s why we made Sundays. With real, all-natural ingredients, gentle air-drying methods for minimal processing, and nutrients packed into every bite, your dog can enjoy human-grade food without any of the fake stuff. Learn more about proper dog nutrition with Sundays.