It’s always tempting to share food with your dog, from bits of dinner from your plate to your favourite snacks, but it’s important to be aware that not all human treats are good for our furry friends.
This is especially true when it comes to feeding chocolate to your dog. This sugary treat might be fine for us, but it can have dangerous consequences for your pet. We’ve put together this guide so you can find out more about chocolate poisoning in dogs, including symptoms to look out for and how to treat it.
What is chocolate poisoning in dogs?
While it’s a tasty treat for us, chocolate is toxic for your dog and can cause significant illness or even death.
That’s because chocolate contains caffeine and a chemical called theobromine, which dogs are unable to break down and metabolise unlike us humans. As a result, they’re more sensitive to its effects.
Different types of chocolate contain different amounts of theobromine and caffeine, with darker, more bitter chocolate having the most. This means chocolate with higher amounts of cocoa, such as dark chocolate or cooking chocolate are much more dangerous for dogs.
Even though white chocolate is less dangerous in terms of the amount of theobromine per gram, it should still be avoided. This is because the amount of fat and sugar it contains can cause pancreatitis, which is a condition when the pancreas becomes inflamed.
So all chocolate is bad for dogs, whether it’s dark, milk, white, or baked into goodies like biscuits and brownies and should be totally avoided.
What are the symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs?
There are many clinical signs and symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs. Whatever the type and however much chocolate your dog has eaten, it’s important that they’re seen by a vet as soon as possible. Don’t be tempted to wait for the onset of symptoms. The sooner your dog gets medical help, the better the outcome.
However, you may not know that your dog has eaten chocolate, so it’s important to look out for the following signs and symptoms, and always be alert to changes in your pet’s behaviour.
Some of the most common and first signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs are:
- More frequent or excessive urination
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
- Racing heart rate
These symptoms may vary depending on how much theobromine they’ve ingested.
Low doses of theobromine (20mg/kg) can lead to:
- Unusual hyperactivity
- Diarrhoea and vomiting
- Excessive drooling
- Increased thirst
- Sore tummy
Higher doses (40mg/kg) can result in:
- Racing heart rate
- High blood pressure
Doses of more than 60mg/kg of theobromine can cause:
If your dog has managed to eat more than 200mg/kg of theobromine, they may suffer serious complications, such as aspiration pneumonia, a coma or even death.
These symptoms can take time to develop, anything from two to 12 hours (though in some dogs the reaction is much faster) and can last for a few days. Even if your pet is coping well after eating chocolate, they could suddenly become unwell, as theobromine can be reabsorbed through the bladder.
Always take your dog to the vet as soon as you realise they’ve eaten chocolate or as soon as you notice any symptoms, so that they can be given the right care.
How to treat chocolate poisoning in dogs at home
If your dog has eaten chocolate or is displaying any of the symptoms above, don’t panic. The first thing to do is call your vet, as the sooner they can remove the theobromine, the faster your dog will recover and the better their prognosis.
Treating chocolate poisoning in dogs varies depending on the type and amount of chocolate your dog has eaten. There are some steps you can take to help this process:
Keep hold of the packaging
Providing your pet hasn’t shredded their way through the paper, this tells your vet exactly what type and how much chocolate your dog has eaten.
Give your vet the details
If you can, pass these details onto your vet when you call them. They’ll need to know what your dog has eaten, how much they’ve eaten, when they ate it and what symptoms they have. This information will help them determine the type of treatment for chocolate poisoning in dogs you need.
Follow your vet’s advice
Your vet might ask you to bring your dog to them, or request that you monitor them at home, but always follow their advice.
If your vet asks to see your dog, they’ll carry out a series of treatments, including:
- Induced vomiting – where your vet will medicate your dog to make them sick. This helps remove the chocolate from their stomach.
- Administration of charcoal – activated charcoal can prevent the theobromine from being absorbed. This may need to be given every four to six hours over the course of the first day, to help limit the chance of the chemical being reabsorbed. This might mean that your pet has to stay overnight at the vet’s so that they can be cared for and monitored around the clock.
- Intravenous fluids – to help support their organs, stabilise fluids, and flush out the toxins.
Depending on the severity of the chocolate poisoning, if treated early and quickly, your dog is likely to be back to themselves in a few days.
How to prevent your dog from eating chocolate
Dogs will snatch food whenever they can find it, even if it’s on a table, a kitchen worktop or even in a box.
So make sure you keep all unsuitable foods out of reach. Place them on a high shelf or lock them behind a cupboard door so your dog can’t get to them. You should also make sure your dog can’t get into your bin as they will happily rummage for waste food.
You’ll need to be especially careful around holidays like Easter and Christmas. All those extra treats, including chocolate, can be tempting for your pet.
And let any guests and children know not to feed your dog, whether that’s from their plate or by leaving food within your dog’s reach.
What alternatives can I give to my dog?
Carob is a caffeine and gluten-free, edible, naturally sweet and highly nutritious alternative to chocolate. It’s often used in dog snacks and while it’s safer for your pet, it’s better to completely avoid any type of chocolate substitute anyway.
Instead, consider feeding them treats that are specially made for dogs, but only occasionally as treats can be calorific, so shouldn’t be given to your pet all the time. Some examples include:
This is totally safe for your dog as it’s made specifically for pets. But as with all treats, make sure you only give them a little bit now and again! We recommend Good Boy’s Choccy Treats, which are stocked in all major supermarkets.
Keep your pet occupied and happy with new toys. They won’t be tempted to eat them, and they last longer than treats!
Plenty of exercise
Keep your dog fit, healthy and happy with lots of walks and games.
Can other pets get chocolate poisoning?
Yes. Pets including cats and rabbits can also suffer and die from chocolate poisoning, so it’s important that all chocolate (and any food not meant for your pets) is kept well out of reach.
Instead, look for alternatives, such as those listed above, and give your pet lots of love and attention.
If your pet has managed to eat any chocolate, make sure you visit your vet as soon as possible, and take the wrapper with you so they know just how much and what type of chocolate your pet has eaten.
If you have any further questions about chocolate poisoning in dogs or any other pet, please don’t hesitate to contact us.