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Help! My dog just ate a chocolate bar! What do I do?

July 08, 2018

When Should You Go To The Emergency Veterinarian After Your Dog Eats Chocolate

We've all been there.

Despite our best attempts to keep our dogs away from potentially toxic products they somehow seem to have a radar that seeks out all bad things and gobbles them down before you can launch yourself from across the room and grab it. 

Not too long ago my newly adopted rescue dog, Bailey drank coffee out of my coffee cup while I was out of the room for a few minutes! It didn't take long to deduce she had consumed my coffee with her increased urination, activity level, and heart rate. I called my veterinarian and provided her current heart rate, how much coffee she drank, and her weight. While it wasn't likely a fatal dose, there was a potential for kidney and liver issues so I took her in to be on the safe side and she was given fluids to help flush her kidneys. Now when I have my coffee, I don't leave it anywhere she can get it as I have discovered she absolutely LOVES coffee! 

The picture is Bailey the night after drinking her cup of coffee with BIG caffeine eyes.  

A friend of mine has a dog who loves chocolate.

Their dog is quite adept at sourcing chocolate from anywhere - your purse, a cabinet, etc. They come home from work to find chocolate wrappers under their bed. Fortunately, they like milk chocolate in small little bite sizes.

Why Is Chocolate Toxic to Dogs? 

Chocolate comes from the roasted seeds of Theobroma cacao.

The primary toxic compounds in chocolate are the methylxanthines theobromine (3,7-dimethylxanthine) and caffeine (1,3,7-trimethylxanthine) - both of which can be toxic in large quantities.

While there is more theobromine than caffeine in chocolate, they work together to contribute to chocolate toxicosis as they are quickly absorbed from the GI tract and spread throughout the body raising the heart rate to potentially cardiotoxic levels and seizures. 

Both compounds are metabolized in the liver and undergo enterohepatic recycling (meaning they go back into the GI tract and then back to the liver again). Methylxanthines are excreted in the urine as both metabolites and unchanged parent compounds with the potential to cause damage to the liver, kidneys, and of course your dog's heart. 

Because humans are fairly large and have a high tolerance for these compounds, chocolate poisoning is an extremely rare occurrence for humans.

Guides on When You Need to Visit the Emergency Veterinaran

We found this handy chart that will help you determine if your dog's weight combined with the type of chocolate consumed (milk, dark, baking, or cocoa), and the volume ingested may necessitate a trip to the emergency veterinarian. Other factors include your dog's breed, their health status, and your dog's unique metabolism. 

If the amount of chocolate your dog ingested is a dose that is even potentially large enough to cause symptoms, please seek veterinary help immediately.

Call your veterinarian or the nearest emergency center for advice if you are in doubt or cannot tell how much chocolate was consumed. It is always better to be safe!

An interesting note, while chocolate is slightly more toxic to cats than to dogs, cat chocolate toxicity is very rare.

For more information about chocolate toxicity, signs to look for, and treatments your veterinarian may administer, visit the Merck Manual Veterinary Manual.




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