Just as I was sitting down to compose this blog, my phone buzzed, indicating that I received a text message. Little did I know that my next topic of discussion was texting its way into my writing. It was a message from a friend that simply said, “My 25-pound dog ate about 3 ounces of dark chocolate truffles. Should I take him to the ER?”
Of course, the answer to this question is never a simple yes or no; I needed more information. This prompted a quick back and forth question and answer session until we came up with a game plan that fit the scenario at hand.
Whew! The situation resolved, I sat back down at my computer and decided that chocolate toxicity sounded like a great discussion topic. So, here we go!
Why is chocolate toxic to dogs?
You have probably heard that Baker’s chocolate is the most toxic to dogs. This is true. Coming in a close second is dark chocolate, with milk chocolate trailing behind. The component of chocolate that is toxic to dogs is called theobromine, which can cause excitation and hyperactivity, increased heart rate and arrhythmias, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and can even cause sudden death. This is not a topic to take lightly.
The most important things to consider are what kind of chocolate your dog ate, how much your dog ate, how much your dog weighs, and how long ago was the chocolate consumed. For instance, one ounce of milk chocolate isn’t as toxic as one ounce of Baker’s chocolate. Similarly, a 5-lb. Chihuahua that eats one ounce of Baker’s chocolate is at a greater risk of toxicity than an 80-lb. Labrador that eats the same amount.
So, what do you do? You walk into the kitchen, find your box of nonpareils on the floor, and your crafty canine standing there licking his lips. First of all, take a deep breath. Next, collect as much of the following information as you can:
- What type of chocolate: milk, dark or Bakers?
- Approximately how much you think your dog consumed (it is better to overestimate a little than underestimate)?
- How long it has been since he ate the chocolate (a few minutes, an hour, sometime while you were at work …)?
- Are you noticing any abnormal behavior? For example, is there vomit and/or diarrhea all over the house? Does your dog seem anxious or hyperactive? What is your dog’s heart rate?
What should you do if your dog eats chocolate?
Your vet can help guide you on the best course of action depending on your answers to the questions above. In general, your vet will treat for chocolate toxicity/ingestion with any combination of the following:
- Induce vomiting
- Administer activated charcoal
- IV fluid therapy
- Control seizure activity and elevated heart rate as needed
- Supportive therapy depending on clinical signs
- Bland diet
If caught and treated early, chocolate toxicity is generally treatable and dogs will recover. Luckily, this was the case for my friend’s dog – and even more fortunately, he had a Petplan pet insurance policy to pick up the bill. I am happy to report that his dog is doing well, and his owner is being much more cautious about where he keeps his scrumptious truffles!
Chocolate isn’t the only edible pet health hazard you can find in your home. Check out our Pet Poison Guide to see what else you should keep out of paws’ reach.
Posted by Dr. Rebecca Jackson on October 23 2017
Staff Veterinarian, PetPlan