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Learning that a dog has eaten chocolate is always a scary experience. Chocolate is notoriously dangerous for dogs, so a pet parent’s first instinct is often to get rid of it as soon as possible. It’s important to know how much chocolate is a cause for concern, and what to look for when observing a dog that’s ingested chocolate. The trouble is that many at-home remedies can actually be harmful and even toxic to the dogs they’re supposed to help.
Prevention is the first form of protection, however given the popularity of this sweet treat for humans, accidents happen. Pet parents need to be armed with as much information if ever faced with the question, “What to do if your dog eats chocolate?”
Chocolate contains caffeine and a related chemical called theobromine. Both are what chemists call methylxanthines—which can be toxic to dogs. The more a dog eats, the more serious the toxicity symptoms are:
20 mg per 2.2 pounds of body weight can cause mild symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea.
40–50 mg per 2.2 pounds of body weight can cause dangerous heart symptoms.
60 mg or more per 2.2 pounds of body weight can cause seizures.
For reference, a Hershey bar contains about 73 mg of methylxanthines, and a serving of chocolate pudding contains almost 78 mg.The darker and purer the chocolate, the more methylxanthines it contains. A medium-sized dog can eat a few M&Ms and not get sick, but the same amount of dark chocolate will be more dangerous. Meanwhile, a little dog might consume a few chocolate chips and be in trouble.Pet parents can use an online to figure out whether a dog’s chocolate intake can cause problems, but the safest bet is always to speak with a vet. They’ll figure out whether the dog needs medical attention or can be observed at home.
Signs of chocolate poisoning usually appear 6 to 12 hours after the dog eats chocolate and can last for up to 72 hours. Older dogs and dogs with heart problems need the closest observation because they’re at the highest risk of sudden and severe cardiac problems. Pet parents should watch out for signs like:
Any of these symptoms should prompt a vet call. The dog might need in-office medical attention, such as medications to slow the heart or activated charcoal to absorb the toxins in the dog’s system.
Only use at-home treatments when a vet recommends it. And avoid any home treatment suggestions that don’t come from a trusted vet team.
It’s always easier to keep a dog from eating chocolate than to get it out of their system once they’ve consumed it. Whether or not a dog has already eaten chocolate, here’s how to keep it from happening in the future:
Never let anyone, including children, give chocolate to dogs as a treat.
Ask household members to keep all chocolate products out of the dog’s reach.
Teach the “leave it” command so if a dog gets caught with chocolate, they’re less likely to ingest it.
Confine your dog if there’s a celebration where chocolate treats might be left out.
Be careful around holidays. Put all chocolate products away and don’t leave the dog alone in the kitchen during baking sessions.
Baking chocolate is one of the most dangerous varieties because it’s the closest to pure cocoa. Even a little bit can be dangerous to dogs of any size.