You were recently eating chocolate when a little dropped to the floor and your dog licked it up. Or maybe your dog got into a food cabinet and ate chocolate you were storing there.
Is now the time to call your vet, or will your dog be OK after ingesting chocolate? The answer really depends upon what symptoms your dog is exhibiting and other factors. Then, you'll be able to figure out if it's an emergency or not.
Is chocolate toxic to dogs?
Yes, chocolate toxicity is a real thing. Chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats. While ingesting chocolate rarely results in death, your dog may become very sick from it. That's because chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, both of which are harmful to dogs because they can't metabolize them.
The worst type of chocolate for your dog is cocoa powder, followed by unsweetened baker's chocolate, semisweet chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate.
A medium-sized dog that weighs 50 pounds might become sick after eating 9 ounces of milk chocolate or 1 ounce of baker's chocolate. A little dog that ate a milk chocolate bar may become sick as well. If your dog ate a crumb of chocolate cake or a little piece of a bar, chances are he's going to be OK, though you'll still need to double check with a medical professional.
Whether or not your dog becomes sick for chocolate will essentially depend on the amount and type of chocolate he ate, his weight, his age and his health.
Symptoms of chocolate poisoning
Symptoms of chocolate toxicity include:
- Increased thirst
- Excessive urination
- A racing heart
- Muscle tremors
- Heart failure
If your dog is older, has a preexisting heart condition and eats a large amount of chocolate, there is the risk that he could go into cardiac arrest. The symptoms could appear over several hours and they could last for days since theobromine has a long half-life.
What to do if your dog ate chocolate
If your dog ate chocolate, it's always a good idea to call your veterinarian right away to make sure that he didn't eat a toxic amount of it. Depending on the amount your dog consumed, your veterinarian may advise you to come in immediately, or to watch your pup carefully to make sure he doesn't develop any symptoms. If he does, you should take him to the veterinarian right away.
If your vet is not available for some reason, then you can call the Pet Poison Helpline, and they'll help you out for $59.
In the future, put away all chocolate so that your pup can't reach it. You can also train him using positive reinforcement so that he will know not to go into cabinets or eat food off the floor.
How vets treat chocolate poisoning in dogs
When your dog goes to the veterinarian for chocolate toxicity, your vet may give your dog activated charcoal in order to stop the theobromine from being absorbed into his body. Your vet might administer it every four to six hours for the first 24 hours after your dog ate chocolate. Alternatively, your vet may give your dog certain medications to make him vomit. IV fluid therapy could also be used to rid of the theobromine and help your dog stabilize.
All of these treatments need to be done quickly, so it's best to go to the vet as soon as possible. If your dog ate chocolate after business hours, contact your closest emergency vet.
If your dog ate chocolate, he is at risk for chocolate poisoning. Although it is not common for dogs to die of chocolate poisoning, he could become very sick. Typically, chocolate poisoning only occurs when dogs are older and/or they eat a lot of chocolate at once. However, it's best to call your vet, or an emergency vet, right away. You can also contact the Pet Poison Helpline (for a $59 charge).
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.