Dogs and Chocolate (are not good friends)

Talk about scary!! Last Easter my 40 pound hound ate an entire solid dark chocolate bunny while we were out. Thankfully she gave most of it back – all over the carpet. (Didn’t think it was possible to be grateful for great pools of dog barf.)

Graphic showing relative danger of chocolate to dog breeds.
Click image to enlarge

I wasn’t sure how much she actually ingested so I gave her activated charcoal capsules and called our vet. He recommended giving her charcoal (lol) and observation for signs of toxicity. Signs of chocolate poisoning usually appear within 6 to 12 hours after your dog has eaten it, and include the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness
  • Increased urination
  • Tremors
  • Elevated or abnormal heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Collapse and death

Note: Older dogs and dogs with heart conditions are more at risk of sudden death from chocolate poisoning.

The need for immediate medical treatment depends on the type of chocolate, the amount eaten and the size of the dog. Chocolate contains two substances that are toxic to dogs: theobromine and caffeine. Dogs metabolize these items much slower than people do, meaning toxicity symptoms may be slow to appear and may last up to 72 hours,

The Merck Manual for Veterinary Health explains that chocolate contains both theobromine and caffeine, both which can speed the heart rate and stimulate the nervous system of dogs. The risk of your dog becoming sick from ingesting chocolate depends on the type and amount of chocolate consumed and the weight of the dog. The concentrations of these toxic substances varies among different types of chocolateIf you believe your dog ate chocolate, call your veterinarian immediately and/or call the Pet Poison Helpline (855-213-6680) for advice. Based on your dog’s size and the amount and type of chocolate consumed, your veterinarian may recommend that you simply monitor him for the clinical signs listed above and call back if his condition worsens.

In other cases, the veterinarian may prefer you bring the dog into the clinic. If your pet consumed the chocolate less than two hours ago, your veterinarian may induce vomiting and give him several doses of activated charcoal, which works to move the toxins out of the body without being absorbed into the bloodstream. For more severe cases, veterinary intervention may be needed to provide supplemental treatment, such as medications or IV fluids, to resolve the effects of the poisoning. Dogs suffering from seizures may need to be monitored at the clinic overnight.

There will be lots of chocolate around over the next few days and let’s face it, for many the chocolate fiesta has already started! Don’t be careless like I was and leave your goodies out. When you’ve had your fill of candy, especially chocolate, pick it up, pack it up and put it away. And watch out for these other risky seasonal hazards.

PS: My dog was just fine.

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