Dogs more frequently suffer from chocolate poisoning during the holidays and the new year. There’s also an increase in poisoning cases around the Easter period. My dog ate chocolate: what are the risks, what symptoms should alert me, and what should I do? Here are the answers to your questions.
Note: You should know that dogs are much more sensitive to chocolate than humans. Ingesting one or two squares of chocolate can cause fatal poisoning in the dog, although the level of toxicity depends on the type of chocolate and the amount ingested.
The symptoms of chocolate poisoning
Two to four hours after ingesting chocolate, the first signs appear:
- Digestive symptoms: The theobromine contained in cocoa causes stomach irritation in the dog, with an increase in the secretion of gastric juices. Your pet may therefore have digestive issues, such as vomiting or diarrhea. Some time later, the increase in gastric secretions may give rise to a stomach ulcer.
If the dog consumes a large amount of chocolate, the theobromine will enter the blood, and the nervous and cardiac signs that will appear may also lead to the animal’s death. In the case of a severe poisoning caused by ingesting a large amount of chocolate, death can occur in 6 to 24 hours.
- Nervous symptoms: your dog may become nervous, agitated, or shaky. In serious cases, the dog may also have convulsions and then fall into a coma.
- Cardiac symptoms: theobromine can also cause heart rhythm disorders in dogs. In particular, the animal may have an accelerated rhythm (tachycardia) or experience progressive heart failure or abnormal heart contractions (extrasystoles).
- Other symptoms: a poisoned dog experiences faster breathing and panting. Because theobromine has a diuretic effect, the dog drinks more and therefore urinates much more.
Intervening in and treating chocolate poisoning in dogs
If your dog shows signs of chocolate poisoning, contact your veterinarian immediately. This is also necessary if your dog doesn’t have any symptoms but has ingested:
- Dark chocolate: if they swallowed more than 2 grams of dark chocolate per kilogram of body weight (20 grams for a 10-kg dog, 40 grams for a 20-kg dog, etc.).
- Milk chocolate: if they swallowed more than 10 grams of milk chocolate per kilogram of body weight (100 grams for a 10-kg dog, 200 grams for a 20-kg dog, etc.).
- White chocolate is not as dangerous for a dog’s health, so it’s not necessary to intervene if your dog has eaten white chocolate.
You should know that there’s not really any treatment for chocolate poisoning in dogs. The treatment is symptomatic. If a dog has recently ingested chocolate – that is, less than 2 hours ago – and if there aren’t any symptoms, you should do everything you can to make the animal vomit. Consult your veterinarian for instructions.
During the Christmas or Easter holidays, therefore, be particularly careful with your dog. Your pet absolutely must not have access to the same little treats as you. In addition, consider warning your loved ones about the dangers of chocolate for dogs, because many people simply aren’t aware of them. Finally, remember to put your chocolate desserts away as soon as you leave the kitchen, because an accident can happen very quickly as soon as your back is turned!