Chocolate is bad for dogs because it contains methylxanthine chemicals, which produce effects similar to those of caffeine. In dogs, these effects are much harsher, leading to negative symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and tremors. In severe cases, consumption of chocolate can be life threatening.
A serious case of chocolate poisoning will normally fall into one of three scenarios, depending on how you discover the problem.
Scenario 1: Caught Red-Handed
You walk into the kitchen and find your dog guiltily hovering over a ripped bag of chocolate chips or a pile of spilled cocoa powder. Take the chocolate away, but do not dispose of it or the chocolate packaging. You will need it to determine the amount and type of chocolate that your dog has consumed.
Scenario 2: The Telltale Wrapper
You find empty candy wrappers or other chocolate packaging in your dog’s bedding, on the floor in the kitchen, or anywhere else throughout the house. They look gnawed on or slobbery with dog drool, so you’re pretty sure your dog is the culprit. Find and collect all possible evidence. Also find your dog and keep him close to observe his behavior.
Scenario 3: Symptoms Begin to Show
You start to notice that your dog is having symptoms like unusual hyperactivity, restlessness, pacing, vomiting, diarrhea, racing heart, trembling, or seizures. These are common signs of chocolate poisoning. Ideally, you would be able to locate some evidence that chocolate was ingested. If you do, collect as much evidence as you can and then move one to step 2. If you cannot determine the exact cause of your pet’s condition, there’s a possibility that something else is wrong since the symptoms of chocolate poisoning are similar to the warning signs of other ailments. Contact your veterinarian or, if the symptoms are severe, take your pet to an emergency clinic to determine the cause.
Once you know that your dog has ingested chocolate (either because you caught him or you found the evidence), collect all the information you can so you can evaluate the severity of the situation and, if needed, quickly and calmly report it to poison control or your veterinarian. Write down the information for each of the following categories.
Dark chocolates carry the highest amount of methylxanthines and therefore lead to the most serious cases when consumed. Milk chocolate will also prove dangerous if consumed in high quantities. White chocolate contains the smallest amount of dangerous chemicals.
Consult the chocolate packaging (if you’re able to salvage it) and estimate how much your dog ate. Keep and measure any uneaten chocolate that has spilled on the floor and subtract it from the marked product volume. This will give you the highest possible estimate. Also take into account the possibility that your dog may have ingested wrapping and report that if needed.
How long ago?
If you just walked in and found your dog gorging himself, then this answer is easy. If you’re working with bare evidence, estimate from the last time your dog ate (if you give him his food in portions). You can also check your dog’s mouth to see if there is any residue of chocolate. If your dog is showing symptoms of chocolate poisoning, think of how long the symptoms have been going on.
What is your dog’s info?
How big is your dog? What is his breed? How much does he weigh? How old is he? What is his general medical condition? The severity of the chocolate toxicity will depend greatly on the ratio of your dog’s size to the amount of chocolate he ate. Knowing these factors will help you and your veterinarian take the appropriate course of action.
The severity of your dog’s symptoms will indicate the severity of his chocolate consumption. Take note of the types and severity of your dog’s symptoms and be ready to report them.
3. Seek Assistance
Once you have evaluated your dog’s condition, you must determine if your dog requires medical help. You can call your veterinarian or poison control for help in deciding what your next step should be. You may be counseled to induce vomiting for your dog, possibly by allowing him to eat grass or by administering a medicine. You may be directed to give your dog activated charcoal. In severe cases, you may need to take your dog in for emergency care.
One helpful tip is to research chocolate toxicity for the weight, size, and breed of your dog. Determine at what amounts the consumption of dark, milk, and white chocolate becomes a problem. Write these amounts down along with the number for your vet or poison control and post it in your kitchen for easy access in the case of an emergency. You never want an emergency to happen, but it’s best to be prepared in case it does.