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My dog ate chocolate – what should I do?

Dachshund dog eating chocolate advice

You should definitely see a vet, if your dog has eaten chocolate.

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Eating chocolate doesn't have to be fatal for your dog, if you react quickly and call your vet.

By Dr. Katy Ellison MA VetMB MRCVS

Updated on the 19/11/2020, 19:49

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Many dogs are natural scavengers, a fact that some owners will be all too familiar with. You may have only turned your back for two minutes but in that time your four-legged friend has stolen some food from the table or your bag. If it is chocolate, what do you do? You have probably heard that chocolate is poisonous for dogs, but what does that actually mean and is your dog going to be OK?

What to do if your dog has eaten chocolate

The first thing you should do is telephone your veterinary surgeon for advice. If possible, have the packaging or wrapper from the chocolate to hand, so that you can tell them the quantity that has been consumed and the type of chocolate. This information will enable your veterinary surgeon to make a decision on what treatment is required.

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Will my dog be OK after eating chocolate?

Whether your dog is OK after eating chocolate depends on the amount of chocolate that they have eaten and the type of chocolate. A large dog would be able to eat more chocolate without suffering from any adverse effects than a small dog. Chocolate is poisonous to dogs because it contains something called theobromine (a stimulant a bit like caffeine) that is toxic to the heart and central nervous system. Different types of chocolate contain different amounts of theobromine, ranging from white chocolate with very low levels to high-quality dark chocolate and cocoa powder with very high levels of theobromine. So if your dog has eaten white chocolate, he will almost certainly be OK with no treatment, but if he has eaten dark chocolate this could be very serious and urgent treatment is necessary.

The length of time between ingestion of the chocolate and seeking veterinary advice and treatment is a critical factor in determining whether your dog will be OK. The sooner you contact your veterinary surgeon, the better. They may well need to make your dog vomit and this needs to be done within two hours to be of benefit.

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Can chocolate kill a dog instantly?

Signs of chocolate toxicity usually start within four to 12 hours of ingestion, so chocolate will not kill your dog instantly. Chocolate toxicity is rarely fatal as long as appropriate veterinary advice and treatment is sought. Of the cases that are fatal, they are usually associated with eating cocoa powder or very high quality dark chocolate, which tends to be high in cocoa solids.

My dog ate chocolate cake

Chocolate cake usually contains cocoa powder. Cocoa powder has very high levels of theobromine (the toxic component of chocolate) and as little as a few grams of cocoa powder can cause severe signs of chocolate toxicity. If your dog has eaten chocolate cake, seek veterinary advice immediately.

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What to do if your dog eats chocolate – home remedies

If you think your dog has eaten chocolate, you should always contact a veterinary surgeon. There are no effective home remedies for treating chocolate toxicity and attempting to make your dog vomit at home is not recommended. Time is of the essence when treating any potential toxicity and, if you try treating your dog at home before seeking veterinary advice, you will lose valuable minutes.

How long does it take for chocolate to affect a dog? 

It takes approximately 10 hours for theobromine, the toxic constituent of chocolate, to be fully absorbed from the gut. Signs of chocolate toxicity usually develop within four hours of ingestion of the chocolate but can take up to 24 hours in some cases. The signs can last for up to three days.

How long does it take for chocolate to get out of a dog’s system?

It can take up to three days for chocolate to get out of a dog’s system, but if your dog is not showing any signs of chocolate toxicity after 24 hours then it is unlikely that any will develop.

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My dog ate chocolate but seems fine

Because of the delay of four to 12 hours before signs of chocolate toxicity develop, almost all dogs will initially appear fine. This does not mean that your dog will be OK, so always consult a veterinary surgeon. They may tell you that your dog has not eaten enough chocolate to cause any problems and that no treatment is required, or they may advise that you attend the veterinary surgery immediately for treatment, including giving your dog an injection to make it vomit. This may sound unpleasant but if done within two hours of your dog eating chocolate, it will be very effective. Whether to treat or not is a decision that only a veterinary professional should be making.

My dog ate chocolate 24 hours ago

If your dog ate chocolate 24 hours ago and seems fine then the chances are you have been lucky and your dog has not eaten a toxic dose of chocolate. If your dog does not appear OK then you must seek urgent veterinary care. It will be too late to make your dog vomit because the chocolate will have left his stomach by now. In this instance supportive care such as intravenous fluids and sometimes sedatives will be administered. Repeated doses of charcoal will be given orally because this helps speed up the elimination of theobromine (the toxic component of chocolate). The most common signs of chocolate toxicity are vomiting and diarrhoea. In more serious cases, there may be heart or nervous system signs including a rapid heart rate, muscle twitching, tremors and seizures – in extreme cases.

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My dog ate a chocolate chip cookie 

Most dogs that eat a chocolate chip cookie will be OK, because there is unlikely to be a great deal of chocolate in one cookie.  However, if your dog is small and the cookie is large or contains a lot of chocolate (especially if it is dark) then treatment may be necessary. It is always better to be safe than sorry, so check with a veterinary surgeon.

My dog ate 20 chocolate chip cookies

A dog that has eaten 20 chocolate chip cookies will require veterinary treatment. The chocolate content in 20 cookies is likely to be high enough to be a concern. There is also likely to be a fairly high fat content and this can cause illness ranging from relatively mild gastroenteritis to pancreatitis, which can be fatal.

Should I see a vet?

Without exception if your dog has eaten chocolate, you should seek veterinary advice.  A telephone call to your local practice with the chocolate packaging to hand if possible is the first step. They will be able to tell you if your dog needs to see a veterinary surgeon. If they advise that treatment is required then they are likely to ask you to bring your dog in straight away.

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