What To Do If Your Dog Eats Chocolate: A Comprehensive Guide

What to Do If Your Dog Eats Chocolate?

We all know that dogs and chocolate don't mix well. In fact, we’ve been told that chocolate is poisonous to dogs. Yet lots of canines who eat a bit of the sweet stuff suffer no ill effects. As always, it’s the dose that makes the poison. Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, which are toxic to dogs and can lead to various health issues. If you suspect that your dog ate chocolate or ingested something with chocolate in it, it's essential to act swiftly and responsibly. Here's a comprehensive guide on what steps to take if your dog consumes chocolate.

If you ask a dog owner what dogs cannot eat, they’ll usually list some foods like onions, garlic, rhubarb, grapes and chocolate. Dogs' inability to safely consume chocolate is common knowledge, but thanks to their proclivity for eating anything they can get their mouths on, many dogs are nonetheless treated for ingesting chocolate every year. However, there are also many, many dogs who have eaten chocolate (with or without their owner’s knowledge) who are perfectly fine, no treatment necessary. If chocolate is so bad for dogs, why are these candy-consuming canines fine? Because, as with all things, the dose makes the poison.

What Is In Chocolate That Makes It So Dangerous?

 What Is In Chocolate That Makes It So Dangerous?

The components of chocolate that are toxic to dogs are theobromine and caffeine. These two chemicals are, structurally, almost identical, and both belong to a group of chemicals called methyl xanthines. Chocolate is toxic and it's important to keep out of dog's reach. Part of what makes methyl xanthines so dangerous to animals is how slowly they process them, in particular, theobromine.

While dogs reach peak serum (the non-cell part of blood) levels of caffeine after 30-60 minutes and eliminate half of an ingested dose in 4.5 hours, they don’t reach peak serum levels of theobromine until after 10 hours and take 17.5 hours to eliminate half of it. While they’re in the blood, methyl xanthines have a few effects. Primarily, they inhibit the activation of adenosine receptors. These receptors are generally responsible for making us feel sleepy, and decreasing the activity of our bodies. Methyl xanthines inhibit these sleepy feelings and act as stimulants.

What Does This Mean For Your Dog?

So, what does this mean if your dog has eaten a chocolate bar? It means they will feel nauseous and probably vomit, they’ll have a high heart rate, diarrhea, show signs of hyperactivity and, if they consumed a high dose of methyl xanthines, tremors, seizures and possibly death.

What Exactly Is a High Dose of Methyl Xanthines However Depends on Your Dog?

The risk of your dog becoming sick from ingesting chocolate depends on the type and amount of chocolate consumed and your dog’s weight. The concentrations of these toxic substances vary among different types of chocolate and have an impact on the dog's risk of needing emergency treatment. Here are a few types of chocolate listed in order of theobromine content:

  1. Cocoa powder (most toxic)
  2. Unsweetened baker’s chocolate
  3. Semisweet chocolate
  4. Dark chocolate
  5. Milk chocolate

White chocolate contains 0.25 mg per ounce of theobromine. Milk chocolate typically contains between 44 and 58 mgs per ounce of theobromine. Baking chocolate contains heavily concentrated theobromine, around 390 mgs per ounce.

Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs

 Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs

1. Recognizing the Signs

The severity of chocolate toxicity in dogs depends on various factors like the type of chocolate ingested, the amount consumed, and the size of the dog. The signs of chocolate poisoning can include vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate, restlessness, seizures, and in severe cases, it can be fatal.

2. Assessing the Situation

If you catch your dog in the act of eating chocolate or notice symptoms of chocolate poisoning after your dog ingested chocolate already, try to determine the type and amount of chocolate they've eaten. Different types of chocolate contain varying levels of theobromine, with darker chocolates having higher concentrations compared to milk chocolate.

3. Contacting Your Veterinarian

Immediately contact your veterinarian or an emergency pet hotline. Provide them with as much information as possible about the type and quantity of chocolate your dog has ingested. Your vet can assess the situation over the phone and guide you on the next steps based on your dog's size, health condition, and the amount of chocolate consumed.

4. Inducing Vomiting

Under the guidance of a veterinarian, they might instruct you to induce vomiting at home using hydrogen peroxide. This should only be done if directed by a professional as inducing vomiting inappropriately or with the wrong substance can cause further harm.

5. Seeking Veterinary Care

In some cases, your vet may advise immediate medical attention. They might suggest bringing your dog in for treatment to prevent absorption of the toxins or to manage symptoms such as administering activated charcoal to absorb the toxins in the stomach.

6. Monitoring Your Dog

Even if your dog seems fine after ingesting chocolate, it's crucial to monitor them closely for the next 24 to 48 hours. Not all symptoms may appear immediately, and some can take time to develop.

7. Preventing Future Incidents

Prevention is always better than cure. Ensure that chocolate and any other food harmful to dogs are kept well out of their reach. Educate family members and visitors about the dangers of feeding dogs human foods without your permission.

Common Chocolate Sources

1. Ice Cream (Chocolate)

  • Serving: 1 cup ( 148g)
  • Theobromine: 178mg
  • Caffeine: 5.9mg

2. KIT KAT Wafer Bar

  • Serving: 1 bar (42g)
  • Theobromine: 48.7mg
  • Caffeine: 5.9mg
  • Peanut M&M's
  • Serving: 1 cup (170g)
  • Theobromine: 184mg
  • Caffeine: 17mg

3. REESE'S Peanut Butter Cups (2pk)

  • Serving: 2 cups (45g)
  • Theobromine: 32.4mg
  • Caffeine: 3.2mg

4. Ready to Eat Chocolate Pudding

  • Serving: 4 oz (108g)
  • Theobromine: 75.6mg
  • Caffeine: 2.2mg

5. Doughnut, Cake-type, chocolate, Sugared or Glazed

  • Serving: 1 Doughnut (3' dia) (43g)
  • Theobromine: 12.6mg
  • Caffeine: 0.6mg

6. Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bar

  • Serving: 1.55 oz (43g)
  • Theobromine: 64mg
  • Caffeine: 9mg

7. Chocolate Chip Cookies, Made with Margarine

  • Serving: 1 Cookie Med (2 1/4" dia) (16g)
  • Theobromine: 20.3mg
  • Caffeine: 2.6mg

8. Hershey's Chocolate Syrup

  • Serving: 2 Tbsp (39g)
  • Theobromine: 64mg
  • Caffeine: 5mg

9. Milky Way

  • Serving: 1 bar (58g)
  • Theobromine: 37.1 mg
  • Caffeine: 3.5mg

10. Hershey's KISSES (Milk Chocolate)

  • Serving: 9 pieces (41g)
  • Theobromine: 61mg
  • Caffeine: 9mg

11. Generic Hot Fudge Sundae Topping

  • Serving: 1 Sundae (158g)
  • Theobromine: 77.4mg
  • Caffeine: 1.6mg

12. Hershey's Semi-Sweet Baking Bar

  • Serving: 1 Tbsp (15g)
  • Theobromine: 55mg
  • Caffeine: 7mg

13. REESE'S PIECES Candy

  • Serving: 1 package (46g)
  • Theobromine: 0mg
  • Caffeine: 0mg
  • Cookies, brownies, commercially prepared
  • Serving: 1 Square (2 –3/4" sq x 7/8") (56g)
  • Theobromine: 43.7mg
  • Caffeine: 1.1mg

The amount of caffeine and theobromine will vary naturally due to growing conditions and cocoa bean sources and variety.

Important Information

Did your pet eat chocolate, xylitol, or another potentially poisonous substance? Call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 if you are concerned or notice any signs of chocolate poisoning.

Final Thoughts

The consumption of chocolate by dogs can be a stressful and dangerous situation. However, quick action and seeking professional advice can significantly improve the chances of a positive outcome. Remember, every minute counts in such situations, so do not hesitate to contact your vet immediately if you suspect your dog has ingested chocolate.

In conclusion, keeping chocolate away from dogs and being vigilant about their surroundings can prevent such emergencies. However, if your dog eats chocolate, acting promptly and seeking veterinary advice or calling a pet poison helpline is crucial for their well-being. Always prioritize your pet's health and safety, and remember that professional guidance from a veterinarian is the best course of action in cases of chocolate ingestion or any other potential poisoning.