Every dog owner knows that chocolate is bad for Fido. But exactly why is it so harmful to our furry friends? What in chocolate makes it so dangerous, and what can we do to keep our pooches out of the candy stash? Is it possible for a dog to eat chocolate without getting sick? And if they do get sick, what can we as owners do to help them recover?
What is chocolate?
- Chocolate is a food made from cocoa, sugar and other ingredients. It’s not something you’d typically find in a dog’s diet. However, dogs do love it because of its sweet smell, taste and texture. Chocolate can contain varying amounts of theobromine—the stimulant that makes people feel jittery and gives them the munchies. The larger the amount of theobromine in your pet’s body when ingested, the greater chance he’ll experience toxic effects from eating chocolate. While all types of chocolate can be toxic to pets (except unsweetened baking chocolate), dark or semi-sweet varieties contain more this substance than milk or white chocolates do
What Foods Contain Chocolate?
You may not realize that your dog could be eating chocolate. Chocolate is found in many obvious places, but it can also be hidden in foods you wouldn’t think to look for it. Chocolate cake, ice cream and candy are obvious sources of the substance. But chocolate-flavored cookies, yogurt and pudding also contain chocolate pieces or cocoa powder (which is made from ground cacao beans).
Chocolate poisoning is not common among dogs because most owners know to keep their pets away from these items. However, if you’re worried about your furry friend’s exposure to this sweet poison—or if you live with someone who isn’t aware of its dangers—make sure you keep all chocolates out of reach of your dog at all times!
How much chocolate is toxic to dogs?
The amount of chocolate that is toxic to dogs varies by the type of chocolate. Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine, which can be quite poisonous to dogs. The amount of chocolate that is toxic to dogs varies by the size of the dog: A smaller dog may only need 1/100th as much dark chocolate as a large dog with similar weight. It’s also important to remember that different types of dark or semisweet chocolate contain varying amounts of cocoa solids and sugar. If you have any questions about your pet’s safety after ingesting something he shouldn’t have eaten, call your veterinarian right away!
What causes chocolate poisoning in dogs?
Theobromine is the active ingredient in chocolate that can cause toxicity and poisoning in dogs. Chocolate also contains methylxanthines (caffeine, theophylline and theobromine), which are stimulants for humans but are toxic to dogs. Theobromine is a diuretic that causes an increase in urine production. It also relaxes smooth muscles (those around blood vessels) and increases heart rate, which can lead to increased blood pressure and damage to the heart muscle. The good news is that this effect usually only happens after consuming large amounts of chocolate.
What are the symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs?
The first signs of chocolate poisoning are often vomiting and diarrhea. These symptoms occur within a few hours, and increase in severity as the dog’s body absorbs more of the toxic substance. Other common symptoms include:
- Hyperactivity, which may cause your dog to run around or jump on furniture
- Increased heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, breathing rate and urination frequency
- Increased thirst and appetite
How are dogs with chocolate poisoning typically treated?
If you suspect your dog has ingested any chocolate, it is important to take them immediately to the vet. A vet will most likely induce vomiting and keep an eye on the dog for signs of seizures or respiratory problems.
A lot of vets recommend keeping hydrogen peroxide on hand in case of chocolate poisoning, so if your dog does eat some chocolate and you’re worried about it, go ahead and get some before getting to the vet. The idea is that hydrogen peroxide will make the stomach acids less acidic (which makes sense), but there’s no evidence that this actually works or helps at all.
Are there home remedies for chocolate poisoning in dogs?
Home remedies are not recommended by experts because they’re not effective and can actually cause more harm than good. When a dog is exposed to theobromine, their body goes into overdrive trying to get rid of it—and that’s when side effects like vomiting and diarrhea start happening. Home remedies may be safe for humans, but they’re not necessarily safe for pets—especially if you have a small dog who could be at risk for getting sicker faster than usual from eating chocolate (like an ounce).
If your dog does ingest chocolate, it’s best to call your veterinarian immediately and follow their advice on how much time has passed since the last bite was eaten as well as what symptoms you should expect during this time period.
Takeaway: Don’t give your dog chocolate.
Chocolate is toxic to dogs. Theobromine, a chemical in chocolate that acts as an amphetamine, can be lethal to dogs. Chocolate contains caffeine, which can trigger seizures and other health problems. If you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, it’s important to check with a veterinarian immediately.
If your dog has ingested large amounts of chocolate and shows signs of poisoning, he will need immediate treatment from a veterinarian such as IV fluids or medication for seizure control.