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My dog ate chocolate! What must I do?

Approx. 4 minutes read

Two reasons for living are dogs and chocolate. Life is great when you can sit on the couch after a long week and enjoy petting your furry friend while indulging in some delicious chocolates. The one melts your heart and the other melts in your mouth. Ah, happiness! Unfortunately, though, you just can’t share your chocolates with your dog… here’s what happens if your dog eats chocolate; why; and what you should do.

Why chocolate is bad for dogs

Chocolate contains theobromine, which is an organic compound found in the cacao plant. Dogs metabolise theobromine more slowly than humans do and are susceptible to theobromine poisoning. Your dog can literally die from eating chocolate.

The darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains, so dark chocolate, cocoa powder and melting chocolate for baking contain the most theobromine per gram of chocolate. Milk chocolate and white chocolate contain less, but it’s still toxic, even in small amounts.

“My dog has eaten chocolate and he’s fine, so I’ll give him a chocolate biscuit from time to time.”


How much is too much?

While some dog owners still fall for their smoochie’s puppy-dog-eyes and give in to their dog’s begging for a sweet treat, it’s important to know that as little as 50g of milk chocolate can kill a small dog, while 400g of chocolate will poison a medium-size dog. Why take the risk?

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning

A dog that has eaten chocolate and experiences theobromine poisoning will experience typical symptoms of food poisoning as well as other side effects. The symptoms include:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • extreme thirst
  • pacing and hyperactivity
  • panting
  • muscle rigidity
  • shaking
  • seizures

These symptoms can take between four and 12 hours to show up, and can last for up to 72 hours because the compounds can stay in your dog’s system for a long time. Theobromine can have a devastating impact on your dog’s heart, kidneys and central nervous system, so it’s a big deal and needs to be handled swiftly and appropriately.

Uh oh! My dog has eaten chocolate… now what?!

If you find your chocolate stash raided, with the telling evidence of wrappers in Jock’s dog bed, don’t wait for symptoms to appear before you take action.

1. Phone the vet and let them know you’re coming in

Be sure to tell the vet how much chocolate your dog has eaten and ask what they recommend before you bring him in for assessment and treatment.

2. Make your dog vomit

Your dog may already be vomiting, but if not, you’ll want to try to get him to throw up as much of the chocolate as possible. Be careful of trying to induce vomiting in a lethargic dog – only do this if your pooch is alert and energetic. Mix a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide with some water or plain ice cream so that it’s easier for him to consume. The hydrogen peroxide should have an emetic effect and make your dog vomit. Try to go for a 15-minute walk to exercise him and help this process along.

Do not give him more hydrogen peroxide if he doesn’t vomit after 30 minutes. Also see if he wants to eat grass – dogs usually seek out grass to eat to help them vomit if something has upset their tummy.

3. Give him activated charcoal

Activated charcoal absorbs toxins from the system and is then eliminated – toxins and all – from the bowel. You have a limited amount of time for this to work, so the sooner the better.

4. Dilute the chocolate

Feed your dog something he enjoys that is dog-friendly, which will help to ‘dilute’ the theobromine in his system.

Get to the vet as quickly as possible so that your dog can get emergency care and supportive treatment. Since theobromine has a diuretic effect, the vet may put your pup on a drip to control any dehydration and administer medication.

Chocolate poisoning is one of the most common reasons for vet visits around the holidays. Most dogs who survive it do so because of the quick action of owners. So if your dog has eaten any chocolate, don’t hesitate to get him to the vet asap.

To avoid any chocolate poisoning in future, keep your chocolates out of your dog’s reach. Make sure he has his own tasty snacks, so if he gives you puppy-dog-eyes while you’re enjoying your choccies, you can feed him his own snacks instead.

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