Our topic today: What to do if your dog eats chocolate: home remedies helps us address how you can help save your dog from potential death after eating chocolate. It might sound unbelievable but you could lose your dog from chocolate poisoning.
It is so important to keep your dog away from chocolate. However, it is probably even more important to know what to do if he eventually eats chocolate because, you know, dogs will be dogs, right?
Chocolate is listed on our 197 foods dogs can’t eat (click here to read it) because of how toxic it is to dogs. And depending on the amount and type of chocolate consumed, as well as the weight of your dog, eating chocolate can cause a range of reactions in dogs — all of them bad.
Of course, once this happens, your best recourse is to contact your vet or call the Pet Poison Helpline on 855-213-6680.
That said, here’s how you can help your dog at home if he has just consumed chocolate.
What To Do If Your Dog Eats Chocolate: Home Remedies
Here are some ways you can treat your dog for chocolate poisoning.
1. Contact Your Vet For Medical Advice
The first thing you must always do in such potentially life-threatening situations is to contact your vet. It’s the safest step you can take.
When you contact your vet, they will begin by asking you about your dog’s symptoms if he’s exhibiting any. This way, your vet can decide if your dog needs to be brought in immediately or if home remedies would do.
Other information to have on hand that would definitely help your vet include the type of chocolate your dog ate, how long it’s been since your dog ate the chocolate, as well as your dog’s weight. With all this available, your vet will be able to make a more informed decision on the potential toxicity of the chocolate consumed.
2. Induce Vomiting
Usually, we warn against inducing vomiting on your own if you don’t know what you’re doing. However, in the next few steps, we are going to show you how to properly and effectively induce vomiting in your dog in a safe way.
The good thing about vomiting and why it is one of the best things your dog can do after taking something as toxic as chocolate is the purging effect it gives. By eliminating the chocolate from his system through vomiting, your dog also limits the potential for the chocolate consumed to elicit a toxic reaction.
Now, when you want to induce vomiting in your dog, you want to ensure you only do this if your dog ate the chocolate in the last hour and no neurological symptoms (tremors) have been presented yet.
Also, for both remedies presented below, it’s best to administer them with a syringe or a dropper rather than a spoon. You’re more likely to spill a lot of the liquid if you choose to administer by spoon. Hence, you should always have a syringe on hand in your doggy first aid kit.
When administering the dose, you want to aim for the side of your dog’s mouth. Many times, your dog might attempt to either spit the liquid back up or sometimes, the liquid might leak out to the side of your dog’s mouth. Keep this in mind.
If your dog would tolerate it better, then try mixing either of the solutions mentioned below with something more palatable. It could be broth, gravy, or peanut butter. Anything that could help your dog take better to the substance being administered.
Check out this vet’s briefing on inducing vomiting in dogs before you begin the steps following:
Your vet might advise you to administer ipecac syrup to your dog to trigger vomiting. The dosage, like most drugs for dogs, is based on your dog’s weight. However, for most cases, a quarter of a teaspoon (¼ teaspoon) is usually enough to make your dog vomit after taking chocolate.
Diluted Hydrogen Peroxide
If you’re not able to get ipecac, there are yet other ways to trigger vomiting in dogs. As an alternative, your vet might recommend a solution of water and three percent hydrogen peroxide in equal parts.
To be sure of the right dosage for your dog, it’s always best to speak with your vet first. Nonetheless, generally, a tablespoon for every ten pounds of body weight is usually just right.
Now, whether you eventually use ipecac or diluted hydrogen peroxide, you might to engage your dog in a bit of physical activity in order to get things moving. Just as walking can help your dog poop, walking after taking any of these solutions could help to kickstart vomiting.
Another thing you need to know is how many times you can administer either of these before you must absolutely take your dog in.
Typically, when you administer ipecac or hydrogen peroxide the first time, you should wait about 15 to 20 minutes to see if your dog begins to throw up.
If your dog does not throw up after 20 minutes of the first dose, then you can administer another dose and wait for another 15 to 20 minutes.
However, if this second dose is still not effective, then do not administer another one. Take your dog to the vet clinic instead.
3. Administer Activated Charcoal
While vomiting will help to purge the chocolate from your dog’s stomach, there’s still a significant possibility that the chocolate has already entered your dog’s bloodstream. This usually happens if the chocolate has been in your dog’s stomach for too long a time.
Once your dog has finished vomiting, you may give your dog activated charcoal if your vet permits. Activated charcoal will bind to theobromine (the ingredient in chocolate that causes the toxicity) and then cause it to pass through your dog’s system without event.
Dosage for administering activated charcoal is about 1 gram of charcoal powder to be mixed with 5 milliliters of water per 2.2 pounds or 1 kilogram of dog body weight. By the way, 5 milliliters of water is, typically, one teaspoon of water.
Generally, smaller dogs will be fine with one teaspoon while larger dogs might need up to two teaspoons.
Some Warnings About Administering Activated Charcoal
- First and most importantly, please note that activated charcoal should never be your first resort. It’s a last-ditch effort and must only be administered on the advice of a veterinarian and no one else.
- Next, please do not give activated charcoal to a dog that is vomiting, in tremors, or is seizuring. If charcoal gets into such a dog’s lungs, things can quickly turn fatalistic.
- Activated charcoal can leave permanent stains on anything it falls on. So, be very careful when administering it. Fabric, paint, plastics, carpet, furniture, all these could become permanently discolored if they come in contact with activated charcoal.
- Activated charcoal is not without its side effects. For instance, when administered, activated charcoal causes an increase in sodium levels in your dog’s blood. This, in turn, can bring about seizures and tremors.
In most cases, the symptoms of increased sodium levels as a result of administering activated charcoal can resemble symptoms of chocolate toxicity.
- You want to avoid administering charcoal with Sorbitol repeatedly. If you do this, you could increase your dog’s chances of suffering dehydration or diarrhea which only complicates things further for your pet.
- If you need to pass a large amount of activated charcoal into your dog’s stomach, you’re going to have to use a stomach tube, without which it could get very difficult. This will have to be done every 4 to 6 hours for a couple of days or three.
As a result, constipation and blackened stools are definitely possibilities.
- If your dog isn’t taking the charcoal on his own, then some help might be needed. Oftentimes, the recommendations you get are to mix with some canned food or syringing into the mouth.
However, the problem with these methods is that you significantly increase the chances of getting charcoal into the lungs which we’ve already established to be potentially fatalistic.
Why Chocolate Is Toxic To Dogs
Before we begin, check out this video that explains why chocolate is toxic to dogs and just how much theobromine in chocolate can kill a dog.
While chocolate has no harmful effects in humans whatsoever, in dogs, it can cause severe damage. But why is chocolate so toxic to dogs? Well, this is a result of two ingredients in chocolate known as caffeine and theobromine.
You already know caffeine, but then there’s theobromine (the more notorious of the two, all things considered). The Merck/Merial Manual for Veterinary Health explains that together, these two substances elevate your dog’s heart rate and stimulate his nervous system as well.
Now, there’s something as your dog’s risk of toxicity. This factor can affect just how much damage chocolate can cause in your dog’s system when consumed. We will show you how to calculate this further down this article.
Knowing what kind of chocolate your dog ate is important in helping your vet make a decision when there’s an emergency. So, you want to note that.
Generally, though, you should notice mild symptoms of the toxicity when a dog takes in about 20 milligrams of methylxanthines per kilogram of dog body weight. At around 40 to 50 milligrams per kilogram of dog body weight, cardiac symptoms would begin. And at anything higher than 60 milligrams per kilogram of dog body weight, seizures begin to occur.
This becomes more concerning when you realize that one ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight is enough to present really concerning symptoms.
To put things in perspective, an average bar of Hershey’s milk chocolate bar weighs about 1.55 ounces. Hence, consuming even one bar of chocolate could result in devastating effects especially if your dog is a small breed.
Interestingly, in the toxicity hierarchy, milk chocolate is not even high up the ladder. You have cocoa powder which is the most toxic, followed by unsweetened baker’s chocolate, then semisweet chocolate, then dark chocolate, and then milk chocolate.
Just How Much Chocolate Is Actually Toxic For Dogs?
There are several things that affect this such as your dog’s weight, how much chocolate he consumed and the type of chocolate he ate. In summary, the higher the amount of methylxanthines the chocolate has, the more dangerous the chocolate will be for your dog. Plus, darker chocolates are more dangerous than milk chocolate.
Here’s a rough idea of how much methylxanthines are contained in different types of chocolates.
- Unsweetened baker’s chocolate contains about 393 to 500 milligrams of methylxanthines per ounce.
- Dark semisweet chocolate contains fewer methylxanthines at about 130 to 155 milligrams per ounce.
- Milk chocolate contains only about 58 to 66 milligrams per ounce of chocolate. Sometimes, it might be less.
- White chocolate only contains about 0.25 milligram of methylxanthine per ounce.
Finding Out Your Dog’s Toxicity Level
PetMD tells us that chocolate begins to cause adverse reactions when a dog eats, at least, 9 milligrams of methylxanthines per pound of dog body weight. So, if your dog eats around 18 milligrams or more per pound of his body weight, chances that he will fall ill are very high.
Let’s put this in perspective.
Say a 15-pound dog eats only 1 ounce of unsweetened baker’s chocolate. We already know there are about 500 milligrams of methylxanthines per ounce of unsweetened baker’s chocolate.
Dividing 500 milligrams by 15 pounds, you have 33 milligrams of methylxanthines per 1 pound of your dog’s body weight. This is dangerously higher than the 9-milligram benchmark already set.
Such a dog will definitely fall sick and definitely show, at least, mild symptoms of toxicity.
Say, on the other hand, we have a large dog weighing about 100 pounds. If said dog consumes 10 ounces of milk chocolate, since one ounce of milk chocolate contains 68 milligrams of methylxanthine per ounce, then there are 660 milligrams of methylxanthine in this chocolate consumed by this large dog.
Dividing 660 milligrams by 100 pounds, you have just 6.6 milligrams of methylxanthine per pound of the dog’s body weight. In such a case, there might not even be any symptoms presented. And if there are symptoms, oftentimes, it’s little more than diarrhea.
If you can’t be bothered to do all this math, then we’ve got you. You can click this link to access an easy-to-use program for the calculation of your dog’s risk of toxicity.
Symptoms Of Chocolate Poisoning In Dogs
According to the American Kennel Club, symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs will usually appear within 6 to 12 hours after said dog has consumed the chocolate. Symptoms might also last up to 3 days when they occur.
Some of these symptoms include:
- Frequent urination.
- Stomach bloating.
- Increased heart rate.
- Heavy and rapid breathing.
Although seizures and falling into a coma aren’t common, they can occur in extreme cases. Death is also another extreme consequence of eating chocolate but it does happen. It often occurs as a result of a cardiac arrest which is caused as a result of chocolate toxicity.
Generally though, dogs usually just have mild symptoms which last for 72 hours max.
Beware though, because dogs who reach the seizure or collapse stage will more likely die than those who do not get to that stage. Also, fatality is a much higher risk for senior dogs as well as puppies.
When Chocolate Can Cause Death In Dogs
The science in figuring out just how much chocolate would lead to death in dogs is quite complicated in itself. There are several factors that would have to be put into perspective.
As we have seen in previous sections, the type of chocolate has a part play as does the condition of the dog (his health, weight, and how much he consumed).
For instance, three dogs can eat 18 milligrams of unsweetened bakers chocolate and have different reactions. If one of them is a healthy adult, he will, most likely, come out of it alive even though he might fall seriously sick. If the other two are seniors or puppies, on the other hand, chances are they are not making it out alive.
How long the chocolate remains in the system is also another factor. A dog that throws up within the hour is most likely safe. He’ll most likely not die. However, if the chocolate remains in the system longer than two to three hours, those changes begin to drop and the dog could possibly die.
If you suspect that your dog has consumed about 18 milligrams of chocolate per pound of his weight, whether or not he is healthy or he has vomited, please contact your vet. It’s the best way to ensure that your pet stays alive.
How To Keep Your Dog From Eating Chocolate
In the end, prevention, they say, is better than cure. When it comes to chocolate, it’s better safe than sorry.
In truth, a small amount of milk chocolate shouldn’t cause your large dog any harm. Nonetheless, it’s best to avoid feeding your dog chocolate as a treat. There are better treat options for dogs that are safe and healthy for him (you can click here to learn more about healthy dog treats in our article on Dog Treats).
Also, ensure that you do not allow your dog get access to chocolate so he doesn’t sneak a bite when you’re not looking. You can do that following the steps provided below:
1. Put The Chocolate Away
This one always works — putting the chocolate away. You want to make sure that every chocolate item including hot chocolate mixes and cocoa powder are kept away from the reach of your dog. You can keep them on a high shelf or you can lock them in a closed-door pantry.
Make sure that everyone in the house is on the same page concerning feeding the dog chocolate as treats. That is, it’s a no-no. Inform your guests as well.
Make sure that chocolates are always kept out of sight, never on the countertop, in purses, or on the tables.
You must be even more careful during the holidays as these are periods where chocolates and other treats are in abundance. It’s also the time we can get the most careless. All trick-or-treat bags, Valentine’s Day candy, Easter baskets, Hanukkah coins, and Christmas are to be taken out of your dog’s reach.
2. Teach The “Leave It” Command
Even after doing all you can to take the chocolate out of sight, sometimes, accidents can happen. At those times, if your dog is trained, you can get your dog to abandon the chocolate and prevent any accident.
Teaching the “leave it” command is really easy. However, the results are very effective. And it doesn’t just keep your dog from eating chocolate. You can also use this command to keep your dog from eating leftovers he finds on the ground or stuff that falls to the ground while on your walk or something.
3. Crate Train Your Dog
Now, there might be times when you’re unavoidably unable to supervise your dog. At these times, anything can happen and this is why it is important to crate train your dog. This way, once you’re not around to watch him, you can put him in his crate till you’re back.
The crate you get for your dog should be roomy but not too roomy. It should also be comfortable and safe so that your dog can feel at home there when you’re not available to watch.
Finally, A Word On Cocoa Shell Mulch
Oftentimes, the dangers of cocoa shell mulch are overlooked because they are little known. However, according to PetMD, cocoa shell much is very dangerous for pets, and dogs especially as they are known to love the plant’s smell.
So, before spreading cocoa shell mulch on your property, you might want to have a rethink. As an alternative, you could try shredded pine, hemlock bark, or cedar instead as the ASPCA has suggested.