Help! My Dog Ate Chocolate!

It's an emergency — find out why 🚨

sad dog just ate chocolate

If your dog has eaten chocolate, seek medical attention immediately as this is an emergency.

Did your dog accidentally eat chocolate and now you’re totally freaking out?

The Dodo spoke to Dr. Alex Blutinger, a veterinarian with BluePearl Pet Hospital in New York City, to find what you should do to make sure your dog is safe.

Chocolate and dogs 

While it’s normal to freak out when your dog gets into your bag of Reese’s — which happened to me once — it’s important to note that a few factors play into how this will affect your individual dog.
 
“For chocolate toxicity, it is the dose that makes it dangerous,” Dr. Blutinger told The Dodo. 
 
What this means is that, while pet owners can’t really tell at home how much is toxic (One M&M? Twenty M&Ms?), more chocolate eaten generally means a more serious emergency. “Where we really get worried is with the dark concentrated chocolates (i.e. baker's or cocoa powder) because these chocolates contain a high amount of theobromine and caffeine,” Dr. Blutinger said. 
 
According to Dr. Blutinger, both theobromine and caffeine are responsible for stimulating the central nervous system and cardiovascular system. These can lead to the tremors, seizures, and abnormal heart rates and rhythms that occur with chocolate toxicity. 

Signs of chocolate toxicity

 “Clinical signs generally occur within the first 6 to 12 hours of ingestion,” Dr. Blutinger said (though that doesn’t mean you should wait to call your vet because early intervention is important).

Signs of toxicity include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness
  • Hyperactivity
  • Tremors
  • Difficulty walking
  • Seizures

If left untreated, Dr. Blutinger said, the toxins can cause cardiovascular collapse and life-threatening arrhythmias — which can be fatal.  

What to do if your dog has eaten chocolate

First — if it’s not clear enough by this point — CALL YOUR VET.
 
“If you see your pet ingest the chocolate, and clinical signs have not developed, gastric decontamination is typically recommended (i.e. chemically induced vomiting and activated charcoal),” Dr. Blutinger said.
 
According to Dr. Blutinger, if your dog has already developed signs of toxicity, your vet will want to focus on controlling those symptoms.
 
Treatment can include:

  • Anti-seizure medications
  • Anti-arrhythmics
  • Fluid therapy
  • Cardiovascular support
  • Electrolyte balancing

Only a vet can determine the best course of action for your pup, so it’s important to get treatment right away. 

Outcomes for dogs who ingest chocolate

Fortunately, most dogs will recover without long-term consequences within 24 to 48 hours of treatment — given that they’re evaluated and monitored by a vet immediately after a known ingestion. 
 
“Because of the profound, and potentially life-threatening effect chocolate can have on the cardiovascular and central nervous system, these cases should be taken very seriously,” Dr. Blutinger said. “If addressed rapidly and appropriately, patients have an excellent prognosis.”  
 
So while your dog should be OK as long as you contact your vet immediately, you should still keep those Reese’s locked up — more for you, right?