Fancy, my Chihuahua, got hold of a piece of chocolate yesterday. It totally freaked me out, as chocolate is toxic and possibly deadly for dogs, especially dark chocolate. She vomited what looked like most of it, including the foil wrapper, which I later discovered could have caused a gastro obstruction. I frantically researched the internet to learn what to do if your dog eats chocolate.
There are many posts on the subject, 32 million to be exact. Like most of us, I stayed on the first page in Google’s search engine results. All but one result had the same advice regarding what to do first: call your veterinarian. The exception was a young woman who said in her video to immediately induce vomiting as the first step. She even provided a recipe that includes hydrogen peroxide.
I chose to follow the more authoritative sources and called my vet right away. I was told to monitor her for 6 to 24 hours, and if she exhibited symptoms (listed below) other than vomiting, to call the Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435, describe my dog’s breed, weight and age, the type of chocolate and how many ounces she ingested, and to be aware that they might recommend a trip to our local animal ER.
Symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs
Signs of chocolate poisoning usually appear within 6 to 12 hours after your dog has eaten it, may last up to 72 hours, and include the following:
- Increased urination
- Elevated or abnormal heart rate
- Collapse and death
The American Kennel Club advises that senior dogs and dogs with heart issues are more at risk of sudden death from chocolate poisoning. They also highlight these key points to keep in mind:
Chocolate is toxic to dogs and could cause a medical emergency.
Signs of chocolate poisoning usually appear within 6 to 12 hours.
Knowing how much and what kind of chocolate your dog ate is key.
Fortunately, Fancy’s only symptom was vomiting, which I’m convinced removed her from the danger zone. I’ve been monitoring her since the incident, and now, 24 hours later, she seems to be just fine. I think we were very fortunate that there were no more dire consequences. I didn’t need to call the hotline, go to the vet’s office, nor the animal ER.
It’s worth noting, though, that in some cases, your vet might want you to bring your dog into the clinic. Suppose your dog ate the chocolate less than two hours before. In that case, your vet 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, your vet may need to provide additional treatment, such as medications or IV fluids, to resolve the poisoning effects. Dogs suffering from seizures may need to be monitored at the clinic overnight.
How did Fancy get to the chocolate?
My husband is a chocoholic! He frequently brings a few Hershey’s mini nuggets and other snacks to bed and puts them on his nightstand. I surmise that during his nighttime TV watching and snacking, he inadvertently left one of the nuggets on the stand before he fell asleep. Fancy, being a little chowhound and clever opportunist, has learned how to climb from the bed onto the nightstand to grab whatever tasty morsels are left behind.
As dog parents, we all try our best to keep our fur babies safe, but sometimes, accidents happen. So, don’t feel guilty or panic if your dog manages to sneak some prohibited treats. Just be sure to call your vet right away if she displays any of the symptoms listed above.
Note: I posted my experience with Fancy on social media and had a number of friends share that their dogs were just fine after eating a bit of chocolate. Remember to take into account the type and amount of chocolate your dog has eaten, along with the age, breed, and weight of your dog. These factors are essential in determining whether or not you are facing a medical emergency.
Why is chocolate toxic to dogs?*
Chocolate contains both theobromine and caffeine, both of which can speed the heart rate and stimulate the nervous system of dogs, the Merck/Merial Manual for Veterinary Health explains. 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 (calculate your dog’s risk of toxicity with this easy-to-use program). The concentrations of these toxic substances vary among different types of chocolates. Here are a few types of chocolate listed in order of theobromine content:
- Cocoa powder (most toxic)
- Unsweetened baker’s chocolate
- Semisweet chocolate
- Dark chocolate
- Milk chocolate
Knowing how much and what kind of chocolate your dog ate can help you and your vet determine if you have an emergency. In general, mild chocolate toxicity symptoms occur when a dog consumes 20 mg of methylxanthines per kilogram of body weight. Cardiac symptoms of chocolate toxicity occur around 40 to 50 mg/kg, and seizures occur at dosages greater than 60 mg/kg.
In simpler terms, that means a very concerning dose of chocolate is approximately one ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight. Since an average Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar is 1.55 ounces, consuming even one chocolate bar can have serious consequences, especially for small dogs.
Eating a crumb of chocolate cake or a tiny piece of a chocolate bar, on the other hand, probably won’t kill your dog, especially if it is a larger breed, but you should never feed chocolate as a treat.
Takeaway: Keep your four-legged kids away from chocolate as best you can. Check out our ideas for healthy natural treats and recipes for homemade, human-grade goodies.
Do you have any advice to add? Any experiences to share? Please let us know in the comments below.