Most pet owners know that chocolate is bad for dogs. It could for cats too, but most cats are too finicky to eat it. But what signs of chocolate toxicity should you look for when you know your dog eats chocolate, and what should you do?

Signs to Watch For

The active ingredient in chocolate that causes problems with dogs is called theobromine, which is a distant cousin of caffeine. 

Some of the signs are caused by excitation to the nervous system, like a caffeine overdose.  Look for:

Just ingesting chocolate, which most dogs don’t typically eat every day, can cause an upset stomach.  In these cases, you can see:

It can take an hour or more for the symptoms to show. So if you come home to torn up candy, we recommend calling your veterinarian or the ASPCA’s poison control (number below). Often we can reduce the problems that ensue with early treatment. 

For overdoses, if caught soon enough, medical attention can be focused on making your dog vomit to remove the ingested chocolate before it’s absorbed. It can also be targeted to give activated charcoal to block chocolate that’s already reached the small intestines.

And should you notice any symptoms after your dog eats chocolate, it’s best to have them evaluated by a veterinarian or emergency clinic quickly. The theobromine can also cause a dangerously rapid heart rate and high blood pressure, both of which may require treatment.

Some Food for Thought

A small amount of milk chocolate, like the amount found in a chocolate chip cookie, is not a problem.

For larger, recent exposures, just getting your dog to vomit the chocolate is enough. Your veterinarian or local emergency clinic can help you with this, so call them if your dog has ingested chocolate. They can help you decide when, how, and where to induce vomiting and if further therapy is needed. In cases where a dog is showing signs of chocolate toxicity, they can also start treatment and contact an animal poison control center for guidance. 

Animal poison control (fees apply) can be reached at:

ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center: 888-426 4435

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