What Happens if Dogs Eat Chocolate & What to Do | Pupford
June 16th, 2023
Filed under Health + Wellness
Unfortunately, a lot of dogs love the taste of chocolate (can you blame them?). This makes a candy bar or muffin that was accidentally left out on the coffee table all the more dangerous to them. Chocolate can cause serious damage to your dog if ingested and it’s far too common that this happens to dogs around the world.
Holidays and gatherings usually bring out chocolate treats for guests to enjoy. As the festivities play out, people become prone to leaving chocolate exposed not knowing doggies are hanging around the party as well. Even when it’s not a holiday party or gathering, chocolate is a popular household treat year-round. Every dog parent should be aware of the risks and what to look out for when it comes to chocolate and dogs.
The severity of symptoms depends on key factors such as the type of chocolate and how much your dog ate.
As a general rule of thumb, try to remember the type of chocolate your dog ate, how much chocolate they ate, and how much your dog weighs. Then call your veterinarian or poison control line right away if your dog does digest chocolate. Knowing those factors will help your vet make a more informed decision.
In addition, here are some important factors to know about chocolate and dogs…
THEOBROMINE AND CAFFEINE: THE TOXIC COMPONENTS
These two chemicals found in chocolate are called methylxanthines. They are the chemical components found in chocolate that dogs can not properly digest.
The amount of theobromine and caffeine in chocolate varies by the type of chocolate, making some chocolates less harmful than others. Theobromine is the more harmful chemical because concentrations are higher in chocolate than in caffeine.
According to methylxanthines inhibit the activation of adenosine receptors. These receptors make us feel sleepy and decrease the activity of our bodies. If a dog ingests too much of it, it can become toxic because they cannot digest it at a sufficient rate like humans can.
THE WORST TYPES OF CHOCOLATE FOR DOGS
The darker the chocolate the more theobromine it contains, which means the more harmful it is to dogs. Here’s a list of the most dangerous chocolates for dogs to eat (highest concentration of theobromine):
- Cocoa powder
- Baking chocolate
- Dark chocolate
- Bittersweet chocolate
- Milk Chocolate
White chocolate on the other hand doesn't contain dangerous methylxanthines found in darker chocolates.
CHOCOLATE TOXICITY SYMPTOMS TO LOOK OUT FOR
If you see any of the following symptoms listed below, it’s wise to double-check that the chocolate candy you have been saving isn’t missing. Or maybe there are half-eaten chocolate wrappers laying around the house, or other clues left behind signifying that your pup might have eaten something they shouldn’t have.
Common symptoms of chocolate toxicity in dogs:
- Excessive Urinating
- Abnormal Heart Rate
- Collapse or Immobility
Signs of chocolate poisoning will usually become evident within 6 to 12 hours. Call your vet if you see abnormal behavior and they should be able to advise if you need to take them in or just monitor them closely at home.
WHAT TO DO
In the case of an emergency, such as an older or smaller dog having extreme reactions, inducing vomiting is an option that you can take to save your dog from serious consequences. This is not something to be taken lightly and is only recommended if your veterinarian advises in an emergency situation, where time is of the essence.
If the situation is not as dire or time-sensitive, and you have the means to do so, the best option is always to take them to the veterinarian. It is not worth the risk of pain and suffering to your dog. As a guide, follow these steps:
Step one: note the type of chocolate your dog ate, how much chocolate they ate, and how much your dog weighs.
Step two: call your veterinarian for advice.
Step three: One of three things, depending on the advice of your vet:
- Induce vomiting at home so your dog can excrete the toxic chemicals from their body
- Monitor your dog closely for 12 hours
- Or bring them into the vet or emergency vet during non-working hours
If your regular vet office is closed, call the nearest 24-hour emergency vet.
To do this most vets recommend using 3% hydrogen peroxide administered orally with a spoon or syringe at the back of your dog's tongue (make sure it is 3% as higher concentrations can cause damage to your dog). Gently encourage them to ingest it all by closing their snout and pointing their nose upward for a few moments. This is the most efficient way to help them swallow the 3% hydrogen peroxide. They should vomit within 10 minutes, but if not you can repeat the process (repeat this process no more than once). If they do not vomit the second time, rush them to the vet or call an emergency veterinarian.
Too much 3% hydrogen peroxide can be very harmful to your dog's stomach lining so following your veterinarian's dosage advice is critical to keeping your pup out of harm’s way.
Generally, the common dosage to induce vomiting in dogs is 1 teaspoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide per 5 pounds of body weight. The maximum dosage should be 3 tablespoons and this applies to dogs over 45 pounds. Only induce vomiting if you know that the chocolate was eaten within the last 2 hours.
*Do not do this at home unless authorized by your veterinarian or poison control hotline.
HOW MUCH CHOCOLATE CAN DOGS EAT WITHOUT BEING AFFECTED?
As a general guide, mild symptoms of chocolate toxicity will occur when a dog consumes 20 mg of methylxanthines per kilogram of body weight, while cardiac symptoms will occur when a dog consumes 40-50 mg of methylxanthines per kilogram of body weight (that equals appx 1 oz of milk chocolate per pound of body weight).
As mentioned before, the severity depends on the type of chocolate they consume. Darker chocolates contain more theobromine which is the most harmful chemical found in chocolate for dogs.
While our advice is based on the most recent consensus of veterinarian professionals, it’s important to always talk to your vet in times when unusual symptoms arise. They can help evaluate and understand what your doggy is going through.
It’s a shame that dogs can’t enjoy the wonders of chocolate. As much as they’d love to scarf down a tasty chocolate treat, our furry friends simply cannot digest it as humans can. The good news is there are many different kinds of dog for them to enjoy instead.