What Makes Chocolate Poisonous to Dogs?
As much as humans enjoy chocolate it can be toxic to our pets. Chocolate contains substances called methylxanthines, specifically caffeine and theobromine. These substances are not broken down efficiently in dogs like they are in humans. Because it is broken down slower in dogs it builds up to toxic levels. So if your dog ate chocolate it could make them extremely sick and potentially cause death if immediate medical care is not received.
If Your Dog Ate Chocolate, Here Are Some Common Symptoms
Dogs that consume chocolate may experience:
- Labored Breathing
- Increased Heart Rate
- Increased Body Temperature
- Low Blood Pressure
- Muscle Tremors/Rigidity
When Should You Contact Your Local Veterinarian?
As soon as you find out that your dog has consumed chocolate call your local veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian will ask you specific questions about the situation. What is the size of your dog, what type of chocolate they ate (milk or dark), and amount consumed?
Dr. Rimmasch from All About Pets veterinarian services states “Chocolate toxicity is a genuine threat to your dog, especially a small one. It is dependent on how much the dog ingests and the dog’s weight. The darker the chocolate, the worse the threat. While a large breed dog eating a fun size candy bar is of minimal concern, a Chihuahua eating a dark chocolate candy could be in real trouble.
If an incident occurs, call a veterinarian right away. We have dosage calculators available for chocolate toxicity that will give you an immediate answer. If your pet has overdosed, and we get the chocolate out quickly, they will still do just fine.”
For a quick reference, petmd.com has a dog chocolate toxicity meter. This uses a dog’s weight, chocolate type, and amount consumed to determine the severity. This is a good starting point but does not replace the medical advice of a licensed veterinarian.
Once your veterinarian determines the risk the chocolate poses on your dog a few different things will happen.
In almost all cases they will tell you to come in for a full physical exam. In this exam, they will focus on many of the symptoms if your dog is presenting them.
Inducing vomiting is the next step. Veterinarians use a specific compound that they determine based on an animal’s weight. It is fast acting and will get any undigested chocolate out of the dog’s system.
After vomiting activated charcoal is given to the dog. This will bind with any of the remaining toxins in their stomach. Further testing can be performed based on the severity of symptoms.
Making a dog vomit is vital in getting the remaining chocolate out of the system. This needs to be done under veterinarian supervision.
There is information online about home remedies to induce vomiting in dogs. In recent studies have shown that vomiting can cause more problems. Including twisting of the stomach which requires surgery to repair.
Also, if your dog has any pre-existing health conditions their symptoms can be more severe than a healthy pet. Dogs that have kidney or liver disease and increased age metabolize the toxins slower.
As an owner, you should always be cautious with chocolate around pets. Keep chocolate off accessible counters and/or tables. Always store it in safe pet secure space.
During holiday seasons chocolate becomes more accessible. Halloween starts the festivities with bowls and bags of candy coming in and out of the house. Birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas usually bring in more baking good. With baking comes the richer darker chocolates with more toxins.
Any holiday that celebrates with food is a potential for an increase in chocolate availability for pets.
An Alternative To Chocolate For Dogs
If you still wish to share chocolate with your dog there is a substitute called carob. Carob can be used as a substitute for chocolate. As it contains no theobromine and has essential vitamins and minerals. Carob can be found in many commercially produced dog treats that are deemed safe. There are also many online sources that have DIY dog treats that use this method.