Dogs are naturally termed “man’s best friend”. They are the best animal companion we humans can have and keep as pets. However, we may not know the best and proper way to care for them especially, in terms of feeding. Some foods that are usually good for humans to consume may be extremely deadly and poisonous to dogs, and if not taken care of immediately, the dog may die in no time after consuming such food.
Questions have been asked if it’s safe for dogs to eat chocolate, and lots of errors due to ignorance have led to the untimely death of most dogs.
CAN DOGS EAT CHOCOLATE?
Chocolate contains a toxic ingredient known as theobromine. Unlike humans, dogs metabolize theobromine more slowly which allows it to build more toxic levels in their system and this could cause harm to the dog and even death. So, dogs and chocolates do not mix well. It is NO.
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WHAT DOES CHOCOLATE DO TO DOGS?
- The dangerous effects of chocolate to your dog depends on the type of chocolate, the amount of chocolate is consumed, and the size of the dog.
- When a dog consumes a large amount, the theobromine content will produce seizures, irregular heartbeat, internal bleeding, muscle tremors, and even a heart attack.
- A bigger dog is capable of consuming more chocolate than a smaller dog before it starts to suffer adverse effects. Chocolate consumed in a smaller quantity will most likely give the dog a stomach upset, vomiting which may come with blood.
- Chocolates, when consumed in a larger amount, will mainly affect the dog’s digestive system, central nervous system, cardiovascular system, and the urinary system (kidneys).
SYMPTOMS OF CHOCOLATE POISONING IN A DOG
The symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs usually manifests between 3-24 hours after ingestion and can last for several days.
The signs and symptoms of chocolate poisoning in every dog depend on the quantity consumed by the dog and the dog’s size. Let’s say, a farm-sized dog that consumed 200g of chocolate will likely have stomach disturbance which can lead to vomiting and diarrhea. At 500g, cardiovascular problems and increased heart rate may occur. Consuming 750g of chocolate may result in seizures.
Dogs will likely display some of these signs, and any of these signs and symptoms will require a medical emergency.
- Vomiting (with blood): This is usually one of the first signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs. The digestive system tends to be affected, and this will lead to frequent vomiting because the system will look for means to expel the unwanted and toxic contents from the stomach. This sometimes is accompanied by blood.
- Restlessness: As the dog vomits, there is discomfort, it is in severe pains and just like humans, if we are uncomfortable or in pains, we tend to either roll from one end of the bed to the other, unable to sleep or even stay calm. The same thing happens when the dog is in pain and discomfort.
- Diarrhea: When the gut is troubled, the stool pattern changes. There is an uncontrollable stooling pattern and the dog tends to pass loose and watery stool.
- Increased thirst: With the vomiting and diarrhea, there is fluid and electrolyte imbalance. Fluids are lost in large quantities through vomiting and the watery stool as well. This will prompt the system to seek more fluid thereby making the dog extremely thirsty.
Other signs include:
- Sudden cardiac arrest
- Excessive urination
WHAT QUANTITY OF CHOCOLATE SHOULD A DOG CONSUME?
There is a popular saying that goes “Prevention is better than cure”. If chocolate is bad for the health of the dog, do not attempt to give chocolate no matter how small.
Dark chocolate contains the highest theobromine levels. This means that it will take just a very small amount to poison a dog. About an ounce of dark chocolate is enough to poison a 44-pound dog.
WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOUR DOG EATS CHOCOLATE?
Although you might think giving your dog chocolate may not be serious. But if you know or even suspect your dog has ingested or swallowed chocolate, make sure you call a vet immediately. Explain to them what you think the dog ingested, this will enable the vet to work out based on the size of your dog and know if it’s serious. It also all depends on the type of chocolate they ate, so ensure and keep a proper note of this.
Cocoa powder chocolate is likely to be more toxic than white chocolate. Presently, there is no cure for theobromine/chocolate poisoning, so if the vet wants to treat your dog, they will likely induce vomiting. In some cases, they may put the dog on a drip to control their hydration and heart rate.
Activated charcoal may also be given to the dog to try and soak up their stomach content. Essentially, time is very important, so make sure you call the vet sooner rather than later to avoid further complications. This way, if there is a need for treatment, it can be as effective as possible
HOW TO PREVENT YOUR DOG FROM EATING CHOCOLATE
Although small amounts of milk chocolate may not cause a problem in bigger dogs, it’s still not advisable that dog owners offer chocolate as a treat to their dog.
To prevent your dog from consuming chocolate, follow these tips:
- Crate train your dog: This is one of the best, effective and safest way to ensure your dog does not ingest or consume anything that will cause harm while you’re not around or looking out for the dog. Look around for a sturdy crate that is big enough to contain your dog so it can stand up and turn around, make it a comfortable and safer place for him to fall back to when it wants to be. Give the dog a most cherished blanket and other good treats to enable it to have a good feeling that the crate is his home.
- Put all chocolate type away: Always ensure that every chocolate such as cocoa powder etc is kept out of the reach of the dog. You can keep them in areas like a high cupboard, in a locked cupboard, and anywhere the dog cannot reach. Make sure you inform your kids, children around, and guests that all chocolate should be kept out of the reach of the dog, and not left exposed on areas where the dog can easily access it.
- Teach “leave it” command: The leave it commands is very effective in training dogs and also stopping your dog from eating anything that falls to the ground or is exposed and is within the dog’s reach during a walk in the park on elsewhere. It’s also one of the easiest commands to teach dogs.
TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR CHOCOLATE POISONING
The treatment option for a dog that consumed chocolate depends on the quantity and the type of chocolate that was consumed. If treated or managed early, removal of the ingested chocolate and chocolate materials from the stomach and gut by introducing medications that will induce or cause vomiting will be the best and preferred option.
The uses of activated charcoal to prevent the absorption of theobromine into the body may be all that is important and needs to be given to the dog immediately. Activated charcoal can be administered every four or six hours for the first twenty-four (24) hours to reduce or stop the absorption and circulation of theobromine.
It is also very important to make available supportive treatments such as intravenous fluid, this will help to help stabilize the dog when administered and also aid theobromine removal/excretion. Every dog that just ingested chocolate should be closely monitored and observed for any signs such as; agitation, diarrhea, vomiting, nervousness, irregular heartbeat, and high blood pressure.
Sometimes, some medications to slow the heart rate, example beta-blockers may be very important and needed to treat the increased heart rate
How to Manage a Dog That Ate Chocolate?
- Seek veterinary attention.
- Assess the type and how much chocolate the dog ingested.
- Try to induce vomiting as advised by your veterinarian.
- Observe the dog for about 15 minutes.
- Try to give the dog activated charcoal.
Complications of Chocolate Poisoning to Dogs
- Kidney damage
- Irregular heart rate
- Cardiac arrest