Dog owners know that dogs should not eat chocolate, but many dogs eat it without any side effects? So is chocolate toxic to dogs and why do some dogs not need treatment?
Chocolate is toxic to dogs and this toxicity is caused by two substances: Theobromine and Caffeine.
Both of these chemicals belong to a group call methylxanthines which are processed slowly. The slow rate that a dog processes these chemicals is what makes them so toxic since they are in the dog’s system for a long time.
Essentially, both Theobromine and Caffeine are stimulants. They inhibit receptors that make a dog feel tired and decrease their activity levels. This might give your dog a buzz or energy high, but it will also have a number of other negative effects.
The symptoms your dog experiences are dependant on a number of factors, but the biggest one is the dosage. How much chocolate did they eat? A dog that only got a nibble might have a bit of diarrhea or vomiting but otherwise seem fine. If a dog eats an entire chocolate bar, things could be much more serious.
Signs of chocolate toxicity include:
- Increased heart rate
- Lack of coordination
The amount of chocolate your dog eats is directly correlated with their size. For example, a 10kg Miniature Poodle will consume more Theobromine per kg of body weight than a German Shepherd.
Cocoa powder has the highest mg/g quantity of Theobromine, followed by baking chocolate and dark chocolate and then milk chocolate containing the least.
What to do if my dog ate chocolate
If you saw your dog eat chocolate and they only ingested a very small amount, you can use an online calculator to determine what quantity of theobromine they have ingested based on their body weight. This will show you how likely your dog is to experience symptoms of chocolate toxicity.
In any case, the best option is to call your vet immediately for advice. They will ask how much chocolate your dog ate, what type of chocolate it was and the weight of your dog.
You should take your dog straight to the vet if they are pregnant, elderly or have underlying health conditions. Theobromine can cross the placenta and cause harm to the developing puppies. Elderly dogs and those with other health problems already have a weak immune system and are more likely to suffer serious side effects.
At the surgery, the vet will induce vomiting if your dog ate the chocolate recently. They may also give activated charcoal to absorb any Theobromine left in your dog’s system. If it has been a few hours since your dog ate chocolate, he may need to have his stomach pumped (gastric lavage).
Your dog will also require treatment for any symptoms he has developed such as beta-blockers to lower a high heart rate or anticonvulsants to prevent seizures.