You’re probably reading this article because you’re worried. Let’s move the panic out of the way – if your dog ate just a cupcake with chocolate icing or a very small square of milk chocolate, you don’t have to worry so much. Likewise, if he ate a few cookies, nothing serious will happen to him.
However, if you’re an owner of a smaller pup or if your pooch ate a lot of chocolate, there’s a good possibility that he’ll need some medical attention as soon as possible. And if your pup ate dark chocolate, you’ll have to immediately contact your local veterinarian and let him or her know what happened. He or she will probably want to know your pet’s weight and the amount of chocolate he just ate.
In this article, we’ll be talking about the effect that this sweet can have on your pet’s organism, and what to do in case your beloved Buster ate some of it and is starting to show bad symptoms. Read on!
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Is Chocolate Bad for Your Dog?
One thing is sure – chocolate is not good for dogs. It has almost nothing that the pup needs and a lot of things that he doesn’t need. The risks are not exaggerated – according to a recent study the presence of chocolate has been noticed in some of the most common cases of poisoning that involve pets.
Veterinarians have known the poisonous effects of this sweet for quite a long time, and they have to deal with this type of toxicosis at least once a week. The chocolate poisoning is notably increased during the holiday season, as that’s when people usually leave sweets lying everywhere around their homes.
The thing that makes this food so dangerous for the pets is the presence of theobromine, a chemical with the official name of C7H8N4O2. Even though there are other harmful substances, theobromine is the main culprit and the thing that causes the most trouble. It’s a vasodilator, which means that it widens the dog’s blood vessels and stimulates his heart to work faster.
The chances of getting poisoned by this chemical are a lot bigger in dogs than in humans, since the bodies of our canine companions break down theobromine much slower than we do. When a human eats something that contains theobromine, the quantity of this chemical will be halved within 5 to 9 hours. It takes more than 18 hours for this to happen in the pup’s body, which, of course, leads to some very harmful consequences.
What Happens If a Dog Eats Chocolate?
As we already mentioned, the theobromine (C7H8N4O2) will interfere with the pet’s heartbeat and potentially cause fatal irregularities or disruptions to his heart rate. It will also stimulate his nervous system.
Toxicity to chocolate usually starts somewhere around 20mg of theobromine per one kilogram of the pup’s body weight. For example, pooches weighing 5kg will have serious health issues if they ingest just 100mg of theobromine – and that’s 20g of dark and 70g of milk chocolate. That’s around one square of dark and three squares of milk chocolate. The cocoa powder is even worse in this regard – just 4 grams of it contain over 100mg of this dangerous chemical!
Let’s have a more detailed look at how much of this tasty food is toxic for our four-legged companions:
- Baking chocolate
Half an ounce for a 10-pound dog or one full ounce for a pet that’s double in size (20 pounds). Baking chocolate includes Callebaut, Valrhona, Ghirardelli, Lindt, Guittard, Scharffen Berger, and Mainer.
- Dark chocolate
1,5 ounces for the 10-pound dogs / three ounces for a 20-pound pooch.
- Milk chocolate
Three and a half ounces for a 10-pound pet, and a little bit more than seven ounces for a 20-pound dog. Milk chocolate includes Hershey’s, Dove, Toblerone, Ferrero Rocher, Cadbury, Kit Kat, Mars, M&M’s, Kinder, and Galaxy.
- White chocolate
47lbs for 10-pound pups / 95lbs for the 20-pound dogs.
What are the symptoms?
If you suspect that your furry friend has been poisoned by too many sweets, one of the first signs you should look for is the general restlessness and hyperactivity. Caffeine gets absorbed a lot quicker than theobromine, which will be at its peak only after around 10 hours. Typically, owners notice the symptoms only a couple of hours after the pooch has eaten it, and they can last up to three days (72 hours).
Both of these substances (theobromine and caffeine) caused things like elevated blood pressure and increased heart rate, as well as the abnormal heart rhythm. There might also be hyperthermia, muscle tremors, diarrhea, and vomiting. The hyperthermia alone will cause the pup to pant and look for colder places.
A more serious case of poisoning could cause the pooch to have ataxia (uncoordinated movement), muscle rigidity, seizures, and even coma. Death is also possible – it occurs from complications with the respiratory system and the heart.
The C7H8N4O2 increases the levels of cAMP (cyclic adenosine monophosphate), which is an important chemical messenger in every cell in the dog’s body. Theobromine, along with caffeine, will also cause the release of adrenalin and have a very adverse effect on the pet’s calcium flow. This, in turn, will increase the pet’s muscle contractions.
Once all of these biochemical changes are combined, they can stimulate the pup’s heart muscle and his central nervous system. The smooth muscles, on the other hand, will relax and lead to issues such as the increased urination and respiratory problems.
How Come Many Dogs Still Manage to Eat Chocolate?
Well, the first reason is the fact that our furry friends like sweet things, unlike their feline cousins who don’t even have the receptors for the sweet taste. The dogs also have a strong sense of smell and the motivation to find and eat anything that’s sweet.
That’s why it’s vital to remember that this food can be lethal to your beloved Fido – you have to place it somewhere where he won’t be able to reach it. This can be quite problematic in the holiday season when everything is so hectic, and it’s easy to leave some chocolate on the table. During the Christmas time, make sure to store your sweets in a closed cupboard and watch out on raisins cookies too.
One other important thing is to educate your kids that this food is bad for your pets, and always keep an eye out if they’re still trying to give Buster some sweets while they think you’re not looking.
What to Do If Your Dog Eats Chocolate?
This depends on the dog’s current condition and the disease he has. This is why it’s essential to identify the illness on time, since some conditions cause the dog’s body to dehydrate, which means that the pooch will require much more H20 than he usually does. On the other end of the spectrum are the so-called “over-drinkers”, or the pets that drink too much of this precious fluid.
The first step is to assess how much chocolate and which type of it has your pooch consumed. Before you call the vet, make sure to have as much information as possible – your pup’s life might depend on it.
- Call the vet and seek advice what to do next. He’ll tell you to either bring the dog to the veterinarian clinic or which steps you should take to help him at home. Even though small amounts of chocolate cause only stomach distress and diarrhea, calling the vet is still your best choice.
- If your regular vet is closed, you’ll have to contact an emergency veterinarian. Since accidents can also happen out of the office hours, you’ll have to reach the clinics that specialize in all sorts of animal emergencies and are open 24/7.
- If the vet advises you to induce vomiting, give your pooch one teaspoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide and combine it with water at the 50:50 ratio. This is hard to do with a spoon, so it’s always good to have an oral-dosing syringe close at hand.
- Take the pet outside and pay close attention to its behavior. If the pup doesn’t start to vomit within 15 minutes, feel free to give him another dose.
- If the pooch still isn’t vomiting after half an hour, don’t give him another dose of peroxide – too much of it could harm him.
- As the last effort, you could try giving him some activated charcoal. This would be another way to try preventing the absorption of the chocolate’s poisonous elements. A typical dose would consist of 1g of charcoal powder that’s mixed with one teaspoon of water per 2 pounds of the pet’s body weight.
That’s the last thing you can do in the absence of a professional. If the dog still isn’t vomiting, you can do nothing else but immediately take him to the closest veterinarian.
As you can see, chocolate is one of the most dangerous things you could use as a treat for your beloved Buster. Avoid it at all costs! And if the dog still manages to somehow eat a large amount of it, follow the above mentioned procedure and give your best to help him get the chocolate out of his system.
We hope we’ve been helpful – good luck!