Dog Ate Chocolate? 5 Critical Steps to Take and My Personal Experience
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Melissa cares for a variety of exotic animals and has completed a certificate in veterinary assisting and a bachelor's degree in biology.
Chocolate Is Toxic to Dogs
Unfortunately, chocolate is a common household substance that dogs can get a hold of with relative ease. Despite our best efforts, it is normal to let your guard down once in a while and discover that your pet has ripped open a bag of your favorite chocolate candy. Don't feel bad if this accidentally happens. While you should remain calm, chocolate toxicity should be taken seriously.
Most owners are aware that chocolate can potentially be harmful to canines, but just how much does your dog need to consume before they should be taken to the vet? Here are the steps you should take if your dog has eaten chocolate.
Symptoms of Chocolate Toxicity
Do not wait for symptoms to show up. Symptoms can take 6–12 hours to appear, and by then, veterinary care will be required (extensive and costly). Do not attempt to induce vomiting if there are symptoms; just go to the vet. Signs of chocolate toxicity include:
- Excessive Drinking
- Polyuria (Excessive Urination)
1. How Much Chocolate Did Your Dog Eat?
If you think your dog ate chocolate, first find out how much of the substance was consumed. This will determine the difference between "wait and observe" treatment versus emergency veterinary care (see number 4).
- Look for the wrappers, if there are any. The weight of the chocolate should be listed in ounces or grams. Also, save this information just in case you need to go to the vet.
- If you don't know how much your dog weighs, use a scale. Weigh yourself, then weigh yourself holding the dog and subtract your weight from that figure.
- Chocolate consumption is worse for smaller dogs and elderly dogs with heart conditions, so the concern increases unless they've consumed a minuscule amount.
2. What Type of Chocolate Did They Eat?
The type of chocolate will largely affect toxicity. Chocolate is toxic to dogs because the compound theobromine, which is present in milk chocolate, increases with dark chocolate, and has even higher levels in semi-sweet chocolate. Cocoa powder is the most toxic. Pure white chocolate is not real chocolate and has extremely low toxicity. The toxic dose for dogs is around 9 mg to 18 mg per pound. This can be easily calculated with an online Toxicity Calculator.
- Baker’s chocolate: 390 mg per ounce
- Semi-sweet contains:150mg per ounce
- Milk chocolate: 44mg per ounce
- Pet Poison Helpline | Animal Poison Control Center
Pet Poison Helpline, a 24-hour animal poison control center for pet owners and veterinarians dealing with a poisoned pet (Cost is about $60)
3. Determine When Your Dog Ate It
This is an important step if you are going to try to induce vomiting after determining that your dog has consumed a toxic dose of chocolate. This remedy only works if the chocolate has been consumed within the last hour. Later than that, it has already moved into the intestines and will require veterinary treatment.
If you aren't sure when your dog ate it, it's better to be safe than sorry and go to the vet.
4. How to Induce Emergency Vomiting
If your dog has eaten the chocolate within the past hour, you can attempt to induce vomiting, but be careful to follow the instructions for this as it is potentially harmful if something goes wrong. It is highly recommended to do this with a recommendation from a veterinary or poison hotline.
- Give about 2 teaspoons (3 teaspoons equals 1 tablespoon) for every 25 pounds, not to exceed 4–5 tablespoons total.
- Getting your dog to eat this might be difficult. It's best to use a syringe or turkey baster if you have one, aiming the liquid down the side of the dog's mouth (see video below). Your dog might try to spit some of the liquid back up or some will leak out the side, so take note of this when trying to determine how much your dog drank. You should hear, feel or see your dog gulping the solution to ensure it has gone down successfully.
- You can mix this substance with something palatable like peanut butter, broth, or gravy to encourage the dog to eat it.
- Wait 15 minutes. If your dog does not vomit, give another dose. If your dog still doesn't vomit within around another 15 minutes, do not give any more peroxide and call the helpline or see a vet.
My dog is in the above photo after she was given peroxide. She had gotten into some "chocolate coal" candy stocking stuffers in December. I used the Toxicity Calculator and a vet visit was recommended. We called the Pet Poison Helpline and were advised to use the peroxide method, even though we weren't sure when she ate the chocolate (it could have been 30 minutes to 3 hours ago). I used a syringe (if you are reading this and have the opportunity to purchase one before issues arise, you should do so) after my dog did not eat much of the solution mixed with peanut butter.
It seemed to take longer than 30 minutes for her to vomit. She received 2 doses. Luckily, she eventually vomited twice, and this photo is of the second time; the first had even more material! We were confident that she had removed enough of the chocolate from her system and she was fine afterwards (although a bit miserable from all the fuss and vomiting).
Veterinary Briefing on Inducing Vomiting
5. When to Call or Visit the Vet
It's best to get professional help if:
- Your dog has not vomited on his own or with induction.
- Your dog vomited but there is no chocolate present.
- Your dog is showing symptoms.
- You aren't sure if your dog vomited or what time (or how much) chocolate was consumed.
You can try calling your vet (or an emergency vet, depending on their time and their availability). You will likely be told by the receptionist to come to the clinic. You can also call the Pet Poison Helpline, but this has a fee and you will likely be told to see a vet if you don't know when the chocolate was eaten. Your vet may decide to simply observe the dog based on the information you give. Treatment may involve fluids, IV drugs, stomach pumping, and force-feeding activated charcoal that will absorb the toxins and prevent it from getting into the dog's bloodstream.
Symptoms of End-Stage Kidney Failure in Dogs
The most common signs a dog is dying from kidney failure include:
- Uremia: The buildup of waste products in the body that produces a distinctive ammonia smell that is especially apparent on the breath.
- Pale, dry gums: The gums are duller and dry to the touch.
- Mouth ulcers: Uremia causes raw mouth ulcers that are painful.
- Bloodshot eyes: The whites of the eyes are bloodshot.
- Increased thirst: An affected dog drinks water excessively.
- Dehydration: Despite more fluid intake, the dog is dehydrated.
- Decreased appetite: The dog loses interest in food.
- Weight loss: The dog steadily loses weight.
- Gradual loss of fat and muscle mass: The weight loss affects both fat and muscle mass and can cause emaciation.
- Dull coat that sheds excessively: The lackluster coat constantly sheds and looks unkempt.
- Lethargy: The dog has little energy or interest in moving around.
- Fatigue: He sleeps most of the day and night with only brief periods of wakefulness.
- Vomiting: The dog vomits frequently and cannot keep food down.
- Anemia: He may develop anemia.
- High blood pressure: The dog has elevated blood pressure.
- Incontinence: A dog cannot control urination.
- Difficulty breathing: The dog has problems breathing normally.
- Slowing heart rate: A faster heart rate is generally present with kidney failure, but the heart rate begins to slow down during the end-stage.
- Depression: The dog seems sad and does not respond to any of his favorite things.
- Lack of interest in surroundings: The dog is unaware of or disinterested in his surroundings.
- Disorientation: He acts confused at times.
- Loss of balance and coordination: He appears clumsy and unsteady on his feet.
- Trembling or shaking: He has tremors or episodes of shaking.
- Seizures: The dog suffers periodic seizures, one of the major signs of end-stage kidney failure.
Dog aggression is exhibited by growling, snarling, showing teeth, lunging, and biting. It is important to know that any dog has the potential to show aggression, regardless of breed or history. However, dogs with violent or abusive histories and those bred from dogs with aggressive tendencies are much more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior towards people or other dogs.
Unfortunately, some breeds are labeled "dangerous" and banned in certain areas. However, it's not usually about the breed so much as it's about history. A dog's environment has a major impact on behavior. Also, regardless of breed, a dog may inherit some aggressive traits. Fortunately, most experts agree that breed-specific legislation is not the answer.
Reasons for aggression are basically the same as the reasons a dog will bite or snap, but overall canine aggression is a much more serious problem. If your dog has aggressive tendencies, consult your vet first as it may stem from a health problem. Then, seek the help of an experienced dog trainer or behaviorist. Serious measures should be taken to keep others safe from aggressive dogs.
Get personalised expert advice and peace of mind
Vomiting and diarrhoea are common problems in dogs and while they can be signs of a serious illness, the majority of cases are simple stomach upsets that typically resolve within 24 hours. If your dog develops any other signs such as lethargy or weakness, seems to be in pain, or the vomiting or diarrhoea contains blood or persists for more than 24 hours then call your vet immediately. If your dog has a chronic medical problem such as diabetes and starts vomiting we would not recommend waiting for 24 hours — seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.
We also occasionally see vomiting and diarrhoea in cats. If your cat vomits more than once, cannot keep water down, you see blood or unusual material in the vomit or diarrhoea, or if you have seen him eat something he shouldn’t, call your vet immediately.
How to Get a Dog to Vomit
Last Updated: July 17, 2020 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Pippa Elliott, MRCVS. Dr. Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS is a veterinarian with over 30 years of experience in veterinary surgery and companion animal practice. She graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1987 with a degree in veterinary medicine and surgery. She has worked at the same animal clinic in her hometown for over 20 years.
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You come back home and notice your dog isn’t looking very well. After looking around your house, you discover that your dog has gotten into a potentially harmful substance—one that could be life threatening if it stays in your dog’s system. Although getting a dog to vomit is never pleasant, it can be an important first step in ridding a dog’s body of a toxin. To get your dog to vomit, learn how to administer hydrogen peroxide, get veterinary care, and follow general guidelines on inducing vomiting.