Want to keep up with the latest in your pet’s health? Retrieve it here!

Want to keep up with the latest in your pet’s health? Retrieve it here!

My dog ate chocolate – now what

My dog ate chocolate – now what?!

My dog ate chocolate – now what?!

We’ve all been there – you come home after a long day, your dog greets you at the door and then you notice a partial bag of what were yummy chocolates torn apart and wrappers strewn about on the floor. Damn! What to do next? Many of us know that chocolate can be toxic to our pets, but how much? What do I do next? Should I call the vet? Do I make him vomit? How do I make him vomit? I got the answers to all your questions and more – read on!

Dog eating chocolateThis is a toxicity that we see pretty frequently in the ER setting. I wanted to talk about it because I think some pet owners don’t know how serious it can be. Thankfully, most of the chocolate ingestions we see are not life-threatening, but the more you know the more proactive you can be for your pet!

First, a little about the toxin and the effects it has on the body. The active ingredient in chocolate that is toxic to our pets is called theobromine. After ingestion, the GI tract starts to absorb the toxin quickly but can take up to 10 hours for complete absorption. However, pets can start to show signs in a shorter time period, such as 2-4 hours. A lot of this depends on the amount, the type of chocolate ingested, your pet’s weight, and even some preexisting health conditions.

Certain types of chocolate contain different levels of theobromine, but usually semi-sweet, dark, baker’s chocolate and cocoa powder contain the highest concentrations.

Simply put, theobromine causes an overexcitement of the heart and skeletal muscles, which can lead to heart arrhythmias, increased heart rate, and blood pressure. Dog sick from eating ChocolateSome pets that have ingested a large dose can also have neurological issues, such as tremors, seizures, coma, and even death in severe cases.

Pets that have pre-existing heart conditions and/or seizures can be more susceptible to the effects of the toxin, even at lower doses. For this reason, several factors determine the treatment options after a pet eats chocolate. There are general doses that can be calculated to determine the toxicity, however, there is no one chart that would be able to accurately factor in all your pet’s individual and specific health needs concerning the toxin.

This article isn’t meant to scare you, but instead give information so that you can make the best decision for your pet, alongside appropriate veterinarian’s care and recommendations.

Signs to look out for include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, increased thirst and/or urination, tremors, overexcitement (these pets are overly hyperactive, easily roused, etc.) and sometimes seizures. If you notice any of the signs, seek veterinary care right away.

dog vomiting after eating chocolateChocolate can also be mixed with other potential toxicities including raisins, nuts, and even xylitol, an artificial sweetener. If you are unsure what other ingredients could be mixed in with the chocolate, your veterinarian may recommend for you to call pet poison control. There are a few different pet poison numbers to call including ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) at 888-426-4435 or Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661. When you call, they will collect information about your pet, any health conditions, when they ingested the chocolate (or best guesstimate), and any other pertinent information. Pet poison hotlines are very knowledgeable and even work closely with your veterinarian if your pet needs to seek veterinary care for treatment.

On the other hand, even if your pet isn’t showing signs yet, please call your veterinarian or local veterinary ER as they will be able to further assist you with what your pet needs. Seeking veterinary care as soon as you know your pet ate chocolate is best as your veterinarian may be able to induce vomiting and start other treatments to help counteract the toxin.

“I heard I can induce vomiting at home with hydrogen peroxide – can I do this if my pet ingests chocolate?” In the past, we commonly gave pets (mostly dogs) hydrogen peroxide to help them vomit, however, there are some great, new prescription medications your veterinarian can give that work faster and are safer. Hydrogen peroxide works by irritating the lining of the stomach enough to the point to cause vomiting. If that’s not bad enough, although rare, severe ulcers of the esophagus and stomach can occur as a result.

Inducing vomiting is not always the best thing to do for your pet. Your vet may decide it is best to not induce vomiting, depending on how long it has been since your pet ingested the chocolate and if your pet is showing signs that could put them at risk for aspiration. Aspiration is when vomit goes down the windpipe and into the lungs – yes, it is as awful as it sounds! When you bring your pet to the veterinarian, it is best to try and bring the wrapper (or what is left of it) and any chocolate that is left over. This can help your veterinarian decide the amount of theobromine that was ingested.

If your pet requires further treatment besides inducing vomiting, other treatments could include intravenous (IV) fluids, activated charcoal, and injectable medications to help with an upset stomach,Dog receiving veterinarian care after eating chocolate tremors, seizures, or arrhythmias. If a pet ingested a higher dose, close monitoring of its blood pressure, heart rate, and EKG could be needed. This close monitoring requires hospitalization, sometimes for up to 72 hours (or longer) in more severe cases.

I hope this post helps give some basic information and when to seek help. I also wanted to provide some of the reasoning behind why certain treatments are recommended for some pets and not others. My goal is to provide accurate, informative, and helpful information for you to be able to make the best decisions for your pet. Please comment below if you’d like to hear more about toxicities in pets (plants, medications, etc.) and follow me on Instagram and Tik-tok to keep you in the know about your pet’s health!

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