Dogs love to eat sweet foods including chocolate, preferably in large quantities. But they are not supposed to because chocolate and anything containing chocolate (or cocoa) is poisonous to dogs. Very poisonous! In fact, chocolate is among the top 10 causes of poisoning in dogs.
Chocolate Toxins Potentially Fatal
Chocolate poisoning in dogs can lead to severe illness and even death. Unlike humans who can enjoy the sweet treat without the risk of poisoning, dogs are extremely sensitive to substances known as methylxanthines that are found in chocolate in varying amounts. Dark chocolate including baking chocolate contain higher amounts of these substances than milk and white chocolate, and therefore, the dark varieties are much more dangerous than the light brown and white ones. Depending on the size and overall health of the dog, sometimes as little as half an ounce of dark chocolate can cause deadly complications.
Keeping Chocolate Toxins Away from Your Dog
Since even a small amount of chocolate can cause poisoning, it is of utmost importance to keep chocolate out of reach of your dog, especially the dark varieties and cocoa powder which contains the highest levels of methylxanthines. These, however, are also found in other chocolate-containing treats including candies, cupcakes, cakes and brownies, to mention just a few. Therefore, they should be stored in a ‘safe’ place – locked kitchen cabinets, refrigerator or high shelves.
In addition to the obvious ‘chocolate dangers’, there is one, less obvious threat to your dog – cocoa shell mulch which is very popular as a top cover in gardens. It too is poisonous to dogs which are attracted to it by its sweet smell. To reduce the risk of poisoning, you are advised to use other mulches that are non-toxic to dogs such as shredded bark of cedar or hemlock for instance.
If Your Dog Ingested Chocolate…
Don’t panic and stay calm. Chocolate can cause severe poisoning and even death but it usually isn’t fatal. As mentioned above, the severity of poisoning depends greatly on the size and overall health of your pet, and of course, the ingested quantity. But it also depends greatly on your reaction. No matter how little your dog has ingested or is suspected to have ingested, you should call your vet right away and follow their instructions closely.
Depending on the previously discussed factors, your vet may tell you to wait it out, what to do to induce vomiting or instruct you to rush your pet to their office to receive treatment. The latter may include administration of medications to induce vomiting, intravenous fluids, stomach pumping and activated charcoal treatment to block the absorption of chocolate toxins in the blood.
The outcome of most chocolate poisoning cases is good, especially if the dog is otherwise healthy and well fed.
Don’t Wait for Chocolate Poisoning Symptoms to Develop
Symptoms of chocolate poisoning develop within a few hours after ingesting chocolate or chocolate-containing product. To prevent potentially deadly complications, however, it is extremely important not to wait to see the symptoms of poisoning. These may include vomiting, excessive thirst, diarrhea, fever, hyperactivity, rapid breathing, shaking and seizures. If left untreated, symptoms can progress to weakness, heart failure and death. So again, don’t wait for poisoning symptoms to develop but call your vet immediately for advice/instructions on what to do if your dog ate any chocolate.