What to do if your dog eats chocolate?

What to do if your dog eats chocolate?

Chocolate poisoning is one of the most common emergencies vets treat. Chocolate contains both theobromine and caffeine which dogs struggle to break down and metabolise. These chemicals stimulate dogs’ central nervous system, causing them to pee more frequently and their heart to race. This can lead to a whole range of serious health issues such as a racing heart rate, dangerously high temperature and respiratory failure. If you’re worried your dog ate chocolate, you should seek advice from your vet straight away.

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Signs & symptoms

Signs & symptoms

Signs of chocolate poisoning usually begin to show within four to 24 hours of ingestion.

In the early stages, affected dogs may be restless, suffer sickness and diarrhoea and want to drink a lot. If left untreated their symptoms are likely to include heavy panting, low or high blood pressure, a high temperature, or even coma. Other signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs include:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Racing heart
  • Pacing
  • Shaking
  • Unsteady on feet
  • Hyperactivity
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
  • Gums turning a bluish-purple or bright red colour

If you spot any of these signs please contact your vet straight away or, out of hours, your nearest Vets Now pet emergency clinic or 24/7 hospital.

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Diagnosis & treatment

Diagnosis & treatment

Your vet will make an initial diagnosis based on the symptoms your dog is showing and whether there’s any evidence they’ve eaten chocolate. Your vet’s priority will be stabilising your dog and they may prescribe medication if the dog is suffering from tremors, seizures or heart issues. It’s likely your vet will also perform a physical examination and carry out diagnostics tests. There’s no antidote for chocolate poisoning so your vet may induce vomiting to try to prevent the chemicals in the chocolate damaging your dog’s organs. They may also administer activated charcoal which helps absorb toxins in the stomach and upper intestines. This is usually done once your dog has been stabilised or before any clinical signs have developed. Your dog may also be put on a drip to ensure they remain well hydrated.

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Case studies and news articles

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Prevention

Prevention

The simplest way to ensure your dog doesn’t suffer from chocolate poisoning is to prevent it from happening in the first place. It’s crucial to keep anything containing chocolate well out of reach. This includes all products containing theobromine such as:

  • Dark, cooking and milk chocolate
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Chocolate milk
  • Chocolate ice cream and frozen yoghurt
  • Garden cocoa mulch
  • Chocolate cake mix
  • Cocoa breakfast cereal
Prognosis

Prognosis

The prognosis for dogs with mild cases of chocolate poisoning is excellent but, as with all toxins, the earlier the dog is stabilised and the sooner the theobromine and caffeine are removed from the body, the better their chances of survival. Thankfully, it is rare for a dog to die from chocolate poisoning. According to the Veterinary Poisons Information Service, out of 1,000 chocolate toxicity cases it recorded on its database, only five dogs died. But concerns have been raised that many chocolate toxicity cases go unreported.