Photo: Sonja Rachbauer (Shutterstock)
Out of all the foods that are off-limits to dogs, chocolate is probably the one people are most familiar with—even if they don’t have a dog of their own. And it’s for good reason: Chocolate is toxic for dogs, and could make them seriously ill.
But no matter how careful you are, and how much effort you put into keeping chocolate out of sight and out of mind for your pooch, there’s always the chance that they’ll manage to find some. Here’s what to do if that happens.
Why is chocolate dangerous for dogs to eat?
The two problem ingredients are theobromine and caffeine—both of which can cause increased heart rate, hyperactivity, agitation, muscle tremors, and/or seizures in dogs, according to the Merck/Merial Manual for Veterinary Health .
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Generally speaking, the higher the concentration of theobromine is in a type of chocolate, the more toxic it is for your pet. Cocoa powder is the most dangerous, followed by unsweetened baker’s chocolate, dark chocolate, and milk chocolate, the American Kennel Club (AKC) reports .
What to do if your dog eats chocolate
The severity of the situation depends on a number of factors, including the amount and type of chocolate your dog consumed, as well as their weight. For example, if a toy poodle and German shepherd ate the same amount and type of chocolate, it will take much less chocolate to make the poodle sick, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
Recognize the signs and symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs
Although the signs of chocolate poisoning typically appear six to 12 hours after your dog has eaten it, the symptoms can last up to 72 hours, and include:
- Increased urination
- Elevated or abnormal heart rate
- Collapse and death
The onset of symptoms may occur much faster in older dogs and dogs with heart conditions, the AKC explains . Both groups are also more at-risk of sudden death from chocolate poisoning.
Gather the evidence
As soon as you realize that your dog has eaten chocolate, collect any evidence that’s left, including packaging/wrappers and any uneaten chocolate, and bring it with you to the vet. That will help them determine the potential severity of the situation, and how best to help your dog, the ASPCA notes .
Call your vet or animal poison control
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Get in touch with your veterinarian immediately and follow any directions they give you—including coming into the office, if necessary. You can also contact the Pet Poison Helpline (855-213-6680) or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) for help.