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Halloween is right around the corner, which means chocolate. Lots of it. Unfortunately, dogs + chocolate = problems. What makes chocolate so toxic to dogs? What can you do if your dog gets into your chocolate stash? Keep reading to find out!
Chocolate originates from the Theobroma cacao tree and contains two chemicals—theobromine and caffeine—that are toxic to dogs. These chemicals get absorbed very quickly by a dog’s digestive system but linger for a long time because dogs’ bodies cannot break them down very well. Compared to people, dogs are very sensitive to the effects of theobromine and caffeine.
Chocolate contains much more theobromine than caffeine, so we’ll focus on theobromine as the culprit in chocolate toxicity.
Chocolate toxicity in dogs is rarely fatal but can make dogs quite sick. This toxicity depends on three things: (1) type of chocolate, (2) amount of chocolate, and (3) body weight.
For types of chocolate, here’s a good rule of thumb to remember: the darker the chocolate, the higher the theobromine levels. The list below goes from darkest to lightest chocolates (and most to least dangerous):
The amount of chocolate that’s eaten relates to the type of chocolate. For example, a tiny amount of baking chocolate can cause severe chocolate toxicity in a dog, while that same amount of milk chocolate might cause only mild discomfort.
Online chocolate toxicity calculators, such as this one on PetMD, can help you estimate chocolate toxicity for your dog.
Listed below are some common symptoms to look for in your pet if you think they have gotten into chocolate:
Chocolate toxicity symptoms usually show up within 6–12 hours after chocolate ingestion and can last for up to three days.
More severe symptoms include seizures, collapse, and sudden death. Older dogs and dogs with heart problems can die suddenly from chocolate toxicity.
Chocolate toxicity in dogs is nothing to play around with. Treatment requires eliminating chocolate from a dog’s system and treating the symptoms.
If you know or suspect that your dog has eaten chocolate, start monitoring them for signs of chocolate toxicity.
While keeping a close eye on your dog, call either the Pet Poison Hotline (855-213-6680) or your veterinarian to determine what to do next. Even if your dog is not showing chocolate toxicity symptoms, immediate treatment is still warranted to get the chocolate out of his system before the symptoms start. If your dog is already sick, immediate treatment is absolutely indicated to prevent his symptoms from worsening.
Veterinary treatment for chocolate toxicity includes administering medications to induce vomiting and prevent further chocolate absorption. Other drugs are given according to the observed symptoms. For example, a dog who is having seizures after eating chocolate will be given anti-seizure medication. Dogs with severe chocolate toxicity require hospitalization until they are stable enough to go home.
The best thing you can do is keep your dog away from all chocolate. Here a few ways to do this:
Dogs and chocolate don’t mix. Do everything you can to keep your dog from indulging in this sweet treat.
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Pet insurance provides peace of mind that if your pet gets sick or injured you don’t have to think twice about the financial aspect and you can just focus on your pet’s care.