If your dog has a sweet tooth and steals some of your chocolate, it's time to call your vet. Chocolate toxicity is a common emergency seen at the vet, and if left untreated could make your dog seriously ill.
Chocolate poisoning in dogs
One of our favourite sweet snacks, chocolate contains both caffeine and theobromine in varying amounts depending on the type. These stimulants affect affect multiple organ systems. Dogs can't metabolise these chemicals in the same way that humans can, which makes them much more sensitive to their effects.
If chocolate has gone missing or there's empty wrappers around your home (and you're sure it's not a family member stealing your treats) call a vet for advice. Have the wrapper on hand, as the type and weight ingested will affect if it's an emergency or nothing to panic about. Always seek medical advice if your pup has eaten something naughty.
Limit access to chocolate for dogs
During the holiday season – Easter, Halloween and Christmas – there's more chocolate to be found around the house. If left unattended or not stored away safely, there's potential for your dog to have a dangerous snack. Risks are increased if you have young children, as they might be easier to steal food from – or they might just unwittingly attempt to give the dog a treat.
Keep any cocoa products locked away or out of reach of your dog. If your dog is good at opening cupboards, then be extra careful where you keep it. If your dog is a known scavenger, keep an eye out for anything going missing around this time, as most dogs will happily snaffle some chocolate if left unattended.
How can you prevent your dog from eating chocolate?
Chocolate isn't a suitable treat for dogs. No matter how much they beg or give you the puppy dog eyes, don't give in. If you've got visitors, ensure that they know not to share their sweets, and encourage them not to leave anything on the floor that could be scavenged by your furry housemates. Teaching children from a young age that chocolate is bad for dogs will help to reduce the chances of your dog being poisoned.
Bins and cupboards can be dog-proofed to stop furry thieves delving into them for sweet snacks. Walks are always an opportunity to find something tasty, and while it's unlikely that they'll find a chocolate bar hiding in the bushes, working on their recall or teaching them to drop unsuitable items can be very helpful. If your dog isn't particularly obedient, keeping them on a lead in situations where they might find themselves in food-related trouble is a good idea. In extreme circumstances your dog may even need a muzzle to stop them scavenging on walks.
How much chocolate is too much for a dog?
Different varieties of chocolate contain varying quantities of theobromine. White chocolate contains the least, while cooking chocolate and dark chocolate contain high levels of the toxin. A small amount of white chocolate may not cause any problems, but even small amounts of dark or cooking chocolate could be deadly. As a general rule, the better the quality of the chocolate, the higher the cocoa content and the larger the amount of toxic chemicals it will contain. Your fancy chocolate bar is much more likely to be dangerous to your pup. The amount and type of chocolate, the weight and overall health of your dog need to be considered in combination when deciding whether the dose is dangerous.
Toxic doses of theobromine can be as low as 20mg/kg, causing mild clinical signs such as drooling, vomiting and diarrhoea. If larger amounts are ingested it can lead to problems with the heart or brain. Fatal doses tend to be around 200mg/kg.
Theobromine amounts in standard chocolate are as follows:
- White chocolate: 0.25mg per 28g (or one ounce)
- Milk chocolate: 44-58mg per 28g (or one ounce)
- Dark chocolate or baking chocolate: 130-450mg per 28g (or one ounce). ;
To put these amounts in perspective, a medium-sized dog would only need to consume 30g of baking chocolate or 250g of milk chocolate to show signs of poisoning. These amounts are even less for small breeds.
What are symptoms of chocolate toxicity in dogs?
Shortly after ingestion, signs develop. Most dogs begin to show signs of poisoning within 2-4 hours of consuming the chocolate. Mild signs may include bouts of vomiting or diarrhoea. Increased thirst, panting and agitation are other commonly seen symptoms.
In more severe cases, uncoordinated movements, muscle stiffness, panting and extreme restlessness may present. Seizures and heart failure are possible if large amounts of chocolate are ingested, and even cardiac arrest is possible. If your dog has eaten chocolate, speak with a vet before symptoms arise.
What home remedies are there if a dog eats chocolate?
If your dog has eaten chocolate, stay calm and call a vet. Have the chocolate wrapper on hand so you can tell the vet exactly how much and what kind of chocolate, your dog has eaten. If only a small amount of white or milk chocolate has been consumed, it may be less of a cause for concern, but this depends on the weight of your pup. The vet will be able to check the toxic dose and let you know if they need to be seen as an emergency or if they just need a telling off.
Never try to induce vomiting at home – this is a job for the vet. Many online recipes to make your dog sick aren't safe. The best thing you can do for your furry friend in this situation is call a vet. The vet has access to safe and effective drugs, and if anything goes wrong, then they can fix it. You may see online recommendations for salt or hydrogen peroxide to make your dog vomit. If your dog ingests large amounts of salts, this can be as deadly as chocolate. Hydrogen peroxide is caustic and can cause further problems with the stomach or oesophagus.
There are no actual safe home remedies to successfully treat your dog if they have eaten chocolate. It's not safe to make your pet sick, as this should always be done by a medical professional. A vet will need to assess how much chocolate, what type and when your dog ate this toxin to determine the most appropriate treatment. No treatment should be given until you've spoken to a vet. The sooner your pet is seen, the better the prognosis.
When should I call a vet?
Call a vet as soon as you notice any chocolate is missing from the house. While it may be nothing to worry about and the vet might not be too concerned, it's vital to work out just how dangerous the amount they've stolen could be. If left untreated, this could end in disaster.