We’ve all been told that chocolate is bad for dogs and that it’s poisonous. But I imagine each one of us also knows a story of a dog that has eaten a large amount of chocolate and seemed fine. You may know someone’s dog who ate the big chocolate bunny at Easter or the dog who ate 6 chocolate doughnuts left on the coffee table, and in both cases the dogs seemed fine.
Does that mean that the dog has an iron stomach? No… well, maybe.
So is chocolate actually a poison? The answer is yes.
In small quantities it may not outwardly show signs of poisoning or upset, but this doesn’t mean you should share your bag of peanut M&Ms with your best canine buddy.
Chocolate contains caffeine and also contains theobromine. Theobromine is a natural ingredient in cocoa and chocolate and is found in other foods, it may be labeled as xantheose on the side of a package. Caffeine is a stimulant and so is theobromine. Theobromine is milder but dogs metabolise theobromine very slowly and it can stay in their system for up to a day.
It affects their central nervous system and the heart and kidneys. It causes the heart to beat faster, widens the blood vessels, and lowers blood pressure. It is also a diuretic and can cause increased urination. This is why it’s believed chocolate can cure a broken heart; it simulates the feelings of “being in love.”
Since dogs metabolise theobromine slowly it affects them harder than their human companions, and can be fatal if too much is ingested. For example, a 10lb dog like a small terrier who eats about 7 oz. of chocolate could become extremely ill, if not treated, could be fatal.
Different types of chocolate contain different amounts of caffeine and theobromine. Milk chocolate is more harmful than white chocolate and baking chocolate and unsweetened cocoa are the worst.
What should you do if your dog has eaten chocolate?
If you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate or cocoa, stay calm, and call your vet. You should also have handy the phone number of your local or closest 24-hour emergency animal hospital and poison hotline.
When you talk to the vet, describe the situation and symptoms that your dog is showing.
Typical symptoms are:
1. Excitement, nervousness, restlessness
2. Excessive urination, diarrhea, vomiting
3. Excessive thirst and panting
In extreme cases where large amounts have been ingested you may also see seizure like symptoms, muscle spasms, and lack of coordination. These are the danger signs and often could lead to death.
There isn’t a specific treatment for chocolate poisoning but some of the typical ways to treat poisoning would be to flush the system with IV fluids, induce vomiting, and use charcoal as a way to help the system get rid of
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and will offer advice and help if you believe your pet has been poisoned.
Remember, some foods are not to be shared with your canine companion. No matter how sad those puppy dog eyes are that stare at you, don’t give in. Keep your pet’s best interests at heart.