Our family dog is a snacking machine. There is not a scrap of food in the house that she is not aware of. If you leave a bowl of pretzels or a bag of gummies out of your sight for even a moment’s glance she will pounce and try to make a quick exit to the doggy-door. This is all well and fun playing keep away on a daily basis, but as we know there are foods that should be on our watch list to pay extra attention to when they are out. One of the top items on our family “not for pets” list is, of course, chocolate. Because there is always a chance that, no matter how careful we are, she somehow finds her way into a piece of it, we decided to do our research and provide a guide for what to do if your dog eats chocolate.
Why is chocolate is bad for dogs?
There is one easy to remember fact about the harmful effects of different types of chocolate on dogs: Dark = Dangerous! Two of the ingredients in chocolate, theobromine and caffeine, are both known to speed up a dog’s heart rate and may lead to chocolate poisoning.
For dogs, a bite of a chocolate chip cookie or 1 – 2 M&Ms generally does not result in chocolate poisoning.
Symptoms of chocolate poisoning
Generally, you will see signs of chocolate poisoning withing 6 to 12 hours after your dog has ingested it. These symptoms include:
- Elevated Heart Rate
- Severe Agitation
After your dog has eaten chocolate, what do you do?
Our family uses the “M&M” rule which is: If you suspect that your dog has eaten any more than a single M&Ms worth of chocolate, call the vet right away. If you cannot reach your vet, call the Pet Poison Helpline (855-213-6680) for advice and home solutions that you can use until your vet is available. Most dogs tend to throw the chocolate up on their own, but your vet can assist with this by providing hydrogen peroxide, around 1 tablespoon for every 20 pounds.
For more extreme circumstances, your vet will provide doses of activated charcoal to decontaminate as well as specific heart medications to assist with elevated heart rates and blood pressure. For dogs that have previously or are suffering seizures, there are certain cases in which the vet will request that you leave your dog at the clinic overnight to be monitored.
In most cases it’s better to be safe than sorry, so calling your vet should always be the first line of defense. Hopefully you have preventative measures for keeping your puppy away from your secret chocolate stash, but if those measures fail, you know signs to look for trouble and what immediate actions to take.