From children to seniors and everyone in between, everybody seems to love chocolate as a treat. But what can be a delightful surprise for humans can be a life-threatening hazard for certain animals. This especially holds true for dogs, who can face serious consequences after consuming high quantities of chocolate.
But can dogs eat chocolate at all? The answer to this is a bit tricky.
While most dogs can safely process chocolate in very small quantities, it may still pose certain risks to their health. The intensity of these effects depends on different factors, such as the dog’s weight and the type of chocolate that they are eating. But if there is a mix-up in how much chocolate your dog ends up having, it can cause chocolate poisoning and lead to life-threatening hazards.
From symptoms of nausea to signs of anxiety in dogs, there are various other symptoms that can appear in dogs after they consume chocolate. To understand in detail why dogs can’t eat chocolate as a regular treat, here is a lowdown on the effects of chocolates on dogs, as well as the immediate treatment methods for when your dog exhibits signs of chocolate poisoning.
Why Can’t Dogs Eat Chocolate?
Dogs can’t eat chocolate because of the methylxanthines that are present in cacao beans. Since cacao beans are used to make chocolate and chocolate-flavored products, nearly all chocolate products carry methylxanthines within them. Methylxanthines are alkaloids, which are substances that can trigger strong physiological effects on the consumer1.
The two methylxanthines available in chocolate are caffeine and theobromine. While humans can digest both of these stimulants or energizers with ease, it does not hold true for dogs. It is because of the substances’ half-life, which is the time that it takes for dissolving half of the consumed substance within the body.
For example, the half-life of caffeine is about 5 hours in humans, while it stands at over 6 hours in adult dogs1. It may seem like a small difference, but it can still cause significant effects on dogs and lead to poisoning. The difference in the half-life of theobromine is even more alarming: While humans can process half of the consumed quantity within 2-3 hours, dogs take approximately 18 hours to achieve this goal.
The longer methylxanthines stay in a dog’s system, the more effects they have on their physiological condition. Since both caffeine and theobromine are stimulants, they can have noticeable effects on your dog’s body language as well as the physical effects that they may feel from the inside.
When dogs consume chocolate in higher quantities, these physical effects of chocolate poisoning may include but are not limited to restlessness, vomiting, diarrhea, and frequent urination. In many cases, an increased heart rate also accompanies these symptoms. If the affected dog does not get medical care or if the quantity of the chocolate consumed is high, this could also lead to the dog’s death.
How Much Chocolate Can a Dog Eat?
Even with the risks of chocolate poisoning in dogs, dogs of certain weight can consume chocolate in controlled quantities. But how much chocolate can a dog eat is a matter of careful calculation. Due to this reason, many pet parents choose to steer clear of giving their dogs any chocolate treats at all. This approach is the safest while also being quite convenient from a number of aspects. At the same time, it can keep your dog away from any type of chocolate consumption.
Apart from controlled quantities, you can also buy specially made pet chocolate that does not contain theobromine. This eliminates the risk of chocolate poisoning in dogs. With that being said, you should keep in mind that these chocolates can still cause obesity with overconsumption. Due to this reason, you should be careful in utilizing this approach if you are worried about weight gain issues with your pet.
When it comes to regular chocolate, a lethal dosage is about 100-500 mg of theobromine per kg of a dog’s body weight1. To view this metric from the reference of chocolate quantities, you can look at the following list of how much theobromine each popular type of chocolate may contain.
- 1 gm Cocoa Powder: 20 mg theobromine
- 1 gm Plain Chocolate: 15 mg theobromine
- 1 gm Milk Chocolate: 2 mg theobromine
- 1 gm White Chocolate: 0.1 mg theobromine
This means that for a dog weighing 25 kg/55 lbs, a little over 150 gm of chocolate can be lethal. Once again, these complex calculations keep many pet parents from giving their dogs regular chocolate. That is where the suggestion to use pet chocolate comes into the picture.
What Are Signs of Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs?
The signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs can start presenting between 2-24 hours upon chocolate consumption. Unlike common symptoms such as dog dry coughing and your dog vomiting after eating, these signs are quite distinct in their collective appearance. If you are aware that your dog consumed chocolate a short while ago, looking out for these symptoms makes it easier to determine if your dog is suffering from chocolate poisoning.
Some of the most common chocolate poisoning symptoms in dogs3 include but are not limited to:
- Fast breathing
- Increased urination
If a dog does not get immediate care or if they eat a very high amount of chocolate, these symptoms may lead to heart failure, coma, or death4.
What to Do If Your Dog Eats Chocolate
This is where you need to be extra cautious and treat each step as a critical measure for saving your dog’s life. Instead of asking can dogs die from eating chocolate, reach out to a licensed veterinarian without any delay. Since you already know the answer to can dogs eat chocolate or not, this is simply a measure to protect your dog from the worst-case scenario.
It’s because consuming lower than the outlined lethal doses of chocolate lets your dog dissolve the theobromine in their system and steer clear of chocolate poisoning. But instead of automatically assuming that your dog is safe from associated dangers, you should practice caution and seek immediate medical care.
After examining the symptoms of your dog as well as the amount and type of chocolate that they consumed, your vet can help you determine what type of treatment is needed for your dog. This increases the chances of your dog’s survival after chocolate poisoning. In case it may take some time for you to take your dog to the vet, you can look into telemedicine for pets as an alternative and faster contact measure.
Upon noticing chocolate poisoning symptoms in your dog, you should take the following steps.
- Contact your vet
- Call the Pet Poison Helpline (855-213-6680)
- Get all chocolate out of the vicinity to prevent more chocolate consumption
- Monitor your dog's symptoms
When you notice that your dog has eaten a type of chocolate that they were not supposed to consume, the most important step is to reach out for help without any delay. Even if your dog is not showing any typical signs of chocolate poisoning, the sooner that your dog is treated for a possible chocolate overdose, the better chances they have at survival.
How Do You Treat Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs?
The treatment of chocolate poisoning in dogs should be carried out by seasoned vets. This ensures that any extensive measures can be executed without any delays or complications. In turn, this increases the chances of your dog making a steady recovery.
Some of the most common treatment measures include but are not limited to the following.
- Induced vomiting. Your vet may take different measures to make your dog vomit and expel the excess chocolate dosage.
- Activated charcoal. As a simple yet effective remedy, activated charcoal can interact with your dog’s system and reduce the effects of absorbed chocolate.
- Intravenous (IV) medications. These IV medications can lower the intensity of chocolate poisoning. The regimen and dosage depend on a case-by-case basis.
- Anticonvulsants. These medications are utilized to reduce the symptoms of hyperactivity. A recommended dosage from an experienced vet can help calm your pet.
- Heart medications. Heart medications can help lower heart rate and boost the chances of your pet from falling to chocolate poisoning.
How to Prevent Your Dog From Eating Chocolate
Whenever possible, it is better to keep your dog away from chocolate. If you feel like giving them some chocolate anyway, use a pet chocolate variant instead. This keeps your dog satisfied without putting their health at risk.
The best part? These pet chocolates are easily accessible online and at in-person stores. This ensures that you can take care of your pet’s needs without stretching yourself thin. You simply need to make sure that you are purchasing these items from reliable vendors, who hold good reviews among their user base.
You can also take certain measures to prevent accidental ingestion of chocolate. These steps may include.
- Using airtight containers for your chocolate products
- Not leaving your chocolate packs open or accessible
- Placing your chocolate in cupboards
- Not letting anyone else feed chocolate to your dog
- Using commands to “drop” chocolate if your dog is accidentally about to eat it
Chocolate poisoning is a highly worrisome and potentially fatal threat to your dog. By making sure that you know how to control the quantities of chocolate consumption and when to reach out to qualified vets, you can ensure your dog’s wellbeing in the face of challenging situations.
At Dutch, our platform makes it easy for pet parents to detect, manage, and treat issues such as chocolate poisoning. With direct contact with vets and seamless availability of educational material, you can easily access a network of experts as well as learning resources that you require to take care of your dog.
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