All pet-parents know that chocolate is poisonous for dogs. And we take all the care in the world to keep anything even remotely chocolatey, away from those tiny noses. But what if you were to catch Fido red-handed, as he helps himself to a chunk of the forbidden stuff? Panic? Yes, that would come naturally. But what after that? Read on.
Why No Chocolate?
Chocolate contains two substances, theobromine and caffeine, that are absolutely safe for human beings, but in dogs, they speed up the heart rate and excessively stimulate the nervous system and are very toxic when ingested. How sick it will make a dog, depends on the amount of chocolate that he has consumed and his weight.
Also, different types of chocolates contain different amounts of theobromine and caffeine. Cocoa powder is the most toxic if ingested, and contains the maximum amount of these toxic substances. Next is unsweetened baker’s chocolate, which also contains considerable amounts of these. These two can be quite harmful if ingested by your pet. Semisweet chocolate and dark chocolate are the next two, slightly lower in toxicity, but toxic nevertheless. Milk chocolate and white chocolate are the least toxic if consumed by your dog.
The size of your dog is an important consideration while assessing the toxicity from the chocolate that he may have ingested. A small amount of milk chocolate, for instance, will not harm a big-sized dog, like a Great Dane. If a Chihuahua on the other hand, ran through a medium sized bar of dark chocolate, it can cause him considerable harm.
What Are The Signs To Watch Out For?
Unless you’ve caught your pooch red-handed, you may need to watch out for these signs in your dog: Excessive thirst, Vomiting, Diarrhea, Agitation, Increased urination, Excessive panting, Pacing, Restlessness, Seizures or Collapse. These signs may appear within 6-12 hours after your dog’s eaten the chocolate and may last up to 72 hours.
Sometimes, but not always, chocolate poisoning can even lead to sudden death, especially in older dogs and dogs with heart ailments.
What Do I Do Next?
If you have reason to believe that your dog may have ingested chocolate, call your vet right away. Based on what you tell him about the kind of chocolate consumed, your dog’s weight and any symptoms that he may or may not be showing, he may ask you to just monitor his condition and call back if any symptoms worsen.
In other cases, he may want you to rush the dog to the clinic. He may induce vomiting and give the dog activated charcoal that will help eliminate the toxins from his body. Other veterinary interventions may be needed depending on the severity of the symptoms.
How Do I Prevent Future Episodes?
Here are a few things you can do to make sure your pup never eats chocolate:
Keep It Away
Make sure chocolate, in all its forms, is kept at a high shelf in the pantry that your dog can never have access to, even if he tries his hand at counter-surfing. It’s important to educate everyone in the family about how harmful chocolate is for dogs. You may need to remind children and guests to keep chocolate out of the dog’s reach, and not left around in backpacks, purses or tables. This would need to be especially adhered to, during holidays like Christmas or Easter
which involve extensive use of chocolates.
Teach Your Dog The ‘Leave It’ Command
This is a very effective command to train your dog to understand and follow, if something that your dog is not meant to eat, falls on the ground or happens to be lying around. It also happens to be an easy command to teach.
You can train your pooch to stay in his crate, when you feel that there are chances of his getting exposed to things that are not meant for him to be around, or at times when you aren’t around to supervise. Make sure the crate is large enough for him and that he finds it comfortable and safe to be inside. You can also offer him treats and toys to let him associate happy feelings with it.