Chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical toxic to dogs and cats. Dark chocolate has the highest amount of theobromine and, if ingested by dogs, could cause a dog chocolate emergency requiring immediate veterinary treatment. Although white chocolate contains the lowest amount of theobromine and won’t poison dogs, you should not give dogs white chocolate because it harbors unhealthy amounts of sugars and fats promoting obesity and pancreatitis.
Chocolate and Theobromine
Theobromine has stimulating and diuretic properties similar to caffeine. Dogs eating a few pieces of chocolate may suffer from diarrhea, vomiting and nervousness until theobromine is eliminated by the body. When dogs eat at least a whole chocolate bar, they usually develop the following symptoms of chocolate poisoning:
- Rapid heart beat
- Severe nervousness and agitation
- Incontinence (inability to stop urinating)
- Abdominal pain
- Seizures, tremors
If you know or suspect your dog consumed at least 3/4 of a chocolate bar, take your dog to your emergency pet clinic immediately for professional dog chocolate help involving administration of IV fluids and medications to reduce symptoms.
Veterinary Treatment for a Dog Chocolate Emergency
Since no antidote for a theobromine overdose exists for dogs, veterinarians administer supportive care by:
- Giving dogs fluids intravenously to promote elimination of theobromine through urination
- Inducing vomiting with activated charcoal
- Administering sedatives to help calm the dog’s central nervous system
- Administering anti-convulsants, if necessary
- Providing intubation if the dog is having trouble breathing
Dogs recovering from chocolate poisoning will need to be monitored for at least six to eight hours to ensure symptoms subside and the dog is not suffering from possible long-term effects. In some cases, dogs require up to 72 hours to recover from a dog chocolate emergency. Your vet may want to keep your dog overnight for further monitoring. Dogs treated for chocolate poisoning within two hours of ingesting chocolate typically have an excellent prognosis.
Veterinarians report significant increases in cases of theobromine poisoning over Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas. Blue Star Vet urges dog owners to put chocolate candy away where dogs cannot access them. Keep chocolate in the refrigerator or cupboards too high for your dog to reach to prevent accidental poisoning from chocolate.