Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs: Signs and What to Do

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s time once again to pay attention to the chocolate in your household. After all, at this time of year, it’s common to receive chocolate you might not ordinarily have around, and this can quickly become an enticing snack for the pets in your family.

Chocolate toxicity in dogs

However, it’s very important to keep in mind just how toxic chocolate can be to dogs. Although chocolate toxicity may not always prove fatal to dogs or cats, it can be very dangerous and may cause lasting health problems as well.

Read through the information below to find out more about what to look out for this Valentine’s Day and any time you have chocolate in your home.

Why is Chocolate Toxic in Dogs?

Chocolate is toxic to dogs for two reasons:

Dogs Can’t Have Caffeine

The first of these is the caffeine content present in chocolate. All types of chocolate contain at least some caffeine, although some are more caffeinated than others. The presence of caffeine can cause your dog’s heart to race too quickly and may cause serious health problems as a result. This is the same reason why dogs should not be allowed to ingest coffee.

Theobromine is Dangerous for Dogs

The other cause of toxicity in dogs from chocolate is theobromine. This chemical functions a lot like caffeine does, and it can work as a diuretic. This may cause your dog to become dehydrated very quickly, which may lead to additional problems.

It’s important to remember that the more bitter a chocolate tastes, the more toxic it is. This means that dark baking chocolate is extremely toxic, while white chocolate is not as potentially dangerous. However, all types of chocolate can be toxic and harmful to dogs and other pets, so do not feed your dog any chocolate even if you think it is not too bitter.

Signs of Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs

Now that you understand why chocolate is dangerous for dogs, it’s important to be able to identify when your pet may be suffering from this poisoning.

Signs of chocolate toxicity in dogs include:

Vomiting and Diarrhea

These two problems are the earliest signs of chocolate toxicity in dogs. In light cases, dogs may simply vomit or have diarrhea a few times and then feel better.

However, in severe cases, these symptoms may progress further to the others on the list below.

Excessive Thirst and Urination

Since both theobromine and caffeine are diuretics, dogs may show both excessive thirst and urination when they have ingested too much of either of these substances.

Restlessness

Caffeine, in particular, may cause dogs to behave restlessly. Darker chocolates with higher caffeine contents may lead to this symptom even without the dog ingesting very much of it.

High Heart Rate

An elevated heart rate is a dangerous symptom that could lead to cardiac arrest, especially in older dogs or those with underlying conditions. It can be difficult to monitor your pet’s heart rate at home, so it may be advised to take him to the emergency vet right away for monitoring and/or treatment.

Seizures

Seizures are one of the most severe symptoms of extreme chocolate toxicity in dogs. This may only occur when a dog has ingested a large quantity of chocolate, but it can sometimes mean the toxicity will become fatal without veterinary treatment.

Take your dog to the vet right away if he shows this symptom after eating chocolate.

How to Respond to Signs of Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs

Depending on the symptoms you notice in your dog after he eats chocolate, you may need to respond in different ways.

Contact

If you know your pet has ingested chocolate, please contact the emergency vet right away. Clinical signs and problems are dose dependent and can vary widely based on the size of your pet and the type of chocolate ingested. Sometimes the veterinarian can get your pet to vomit the chocolate up to eliminate or lessen the likelihood of seeing clinical signs.

Do not wait for signs to develop to contact your veterinarian, as once signs are seen, treatment becomes much more difficult.

Go to the Emergency Vet

If your pet shows any of the symptoms on this list and you know they have ingested chocolate, or based on your veterinarian’s advice, please take him to the emergency vet. Excessive thirst and urination may lead to dehydration quickly, which can be extremely dangerous to dogs.

The sooner you respond to your dog’s concerning symptoms, the more likely it will be that your dog can recover completely from the situation.

How to Prevent Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs

There are several ways you can make your home safer for your dog and prevent chocolate toxicity:

Better Storage

If you have chocolate of any kind in your home, you always need to be mindful of how you’re storing it and how likely it is that your pet might try to get to it. Whether you have brownies, cookies, bars of milk chocolate, or cocoa powder in your kitchen and/or pantry, they should always be stored in a secure place your pet can’t reach or get into.

Keep cabinets and pantry doors shut whenever possible and don’t leave chocolate treats or wrappers sitting around.

Training

It’s also important to train your pet the “leave it” command to prevent them from grabbing things they shouldn’t, be they edible or inedible. Instilling good habits and obedience in your dog from an early age can save you (and them) lots of trouble later on!

Educate Friends and Family

Kids are notorious for giving handouts to pets. Teach them not to give your dog any chocolate or other sweets, and get them into the habit of storing things in their proper place.

Make sure they also get into the habit of keeping cabinets, drawers, and the fridge closed securely right after use.

Avoid Using Cocoa Shell Mulch

A rare but nonetheless dangerous source of chocolate toxicity in dogs is cocoa shell mulch. Often used as a top cover for gardens, its sweet aroma can be attractive to dogs and result in them ingesting some of the mulch, which can cause illness.

Always avoid using cocoa shell mulch for your landscaping.

Call an Emergency Vet if Your Dog Has Chocolate Toxicity

With the help of this information, you should be able to keep your pets safer at Valentine’s Day as well as any time of the year when you have chocolate around. Pay close attention to any pets in your household and keep chocolate stored safely out of their reach. By doing this, you can prevent this potentially dangerous problem from occurring at all.

If you know or think your dog has consumed chocolate, call an emergency vet right away. At VEG, you can speak directly to an emergency veterinarian who will help you with knowing what the next steps are. All of our VEG locations have teams of expert and compassionate veterinarians who will do everything they can to help if your dog has chocolate toxicity.

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VEG is a network of Emergency Veterinarians located across the country. We are dedicated to helping people and their pets when they need it most. If your pet is ever in an emergency situation, use the link below to find our nearest location so we can get your pet the help they need.