You share lots of things with your dog. You might even give them scraps from the table while you’re sitting down to dinner. But a lot of food that’s perfectly fine for people to eat can be downright dangerous for your dog. One example is chocolate. You might love it, but it could be deadly if your pet eats it. Chocolate can be so poisonous to dogs—and cats, too, for that matter—that if you think your pet ate some, the best thing to do is contact an animal hospital in Jacksonville to find out what to do next.

Your vet might have you bring in your dog or let you know what to do to help them get better. Learn more about why your dog shouldn’t eat chocolate and how quickly you should act if you think he’s snuck a candy bar or two.

Dog next to chocolate

Why Can’t Dogs Have Chocolate?

Chocolate contains compounds known as methylxanthines, which can make humans feel energized and euphoric and can make dogs feel sick to their stomachs. Two types of methylxanthines found in chocolate can be particularly dangerous for dogs. The first is theobromine, and the second is caffeine. Theobromine and caffeine do similar things when ingested.

They relax the muscles, speed up the heart rate, and dilate the blood vessels. People are usually much better able to metabolize theobromine and caffeine than dogs, which is why we’re able to eat chocolate without needing to go to the emergency room.

In dogs, theobromine and caffeine metabolize slowly. That means that a considerable amount of each substance can build up in a dog’s system over time, especially if they eat a lot of chocolate all at once. Depending on the size of the dog, the type of chocolate they eat, and the amount of chocolate consumed, they might need to go to an emergency animal hospital in Jacksonville for care and treatment right away.

What Happens When a Dog Eats Chocolate?

Often, a dog will vomit after eating chocolate or have diarrhea. Since caffeine and theobromine are stimulants, some dogs will act as if they just drank a pot of coffee and will start zipping around excitedly. Chocolate consumption can also make a dog’s heart race and can lead to seizures.

One thing worth noting about the symptoms caused by chocolate consumption in dogs is that they can take some time to show up. Since dogs metabolize the compounds slowly, they might not show symptoms of chocolate poisoning until several hours have passed.

Even if your dog isn’t showing signs and symptoms, if you see other evidence that they got into your candy stash, such as wrappers on the floor or chocolate streaks on their mouth, contact your dog’s vet to see what you should do.

What Should You Do if You Think Your Dog Ate Chocolate?

The rule of thumb to follow if you think your dog ate chocolate is to get help from a vet ASAP. Don’t wait for symptoms to appear. You can call an emergency animal hospital and see what the vet recommends doing. The vet might tell you to stay home and give you tips to help your dog out, or they might recommend bringing the dog in to be seen.

Before you call the vet, see if you can figure out how much and what type of chocolate your dog ate. Different types of chocolate contain different amounts of caffeine and theobromine.

Usually, the darker the chocolate, the higher the levels of theobromine and caffeine, and the more dangerous it is for your pet. Chocolate products that are 100% cocoa, such as cocoa powder and unsweetened baking chocolate, can be the most deadly to pets. Just one ounce of an unsweetened, 100% cocoa bar can poison a medium-sized dog.

Milk chocolate and white chocolate have considerably lower levels of cocoa and, in turn, lower levels of theobromine and caffeine. But they can still be dangerous to pets if consumed in large enough quantities.

Try to guess how much chocolate your dog ate and let the vet know that. You should also tell the vet how big your dog is. Lower quantities of chocolate can be more dangerous for a small dog than for a larger pet.

How Will the Vet Help Your Dog?

How the vet will help your dog depends on when you call, the size of your pet, and how much chocolate they’ve eaten. The vet might ask you to monitor your pet for signs of chocolate poisoning because some dogs never develop symptoms or might get a little hyperactive but then recover.

If it’s within a few hours of your dog eating the chocolate, the vet might ask you to bring them in so that the vet can induce vomiting. Usually, a vet will give a dog medicine to make them throw up and will also pump your dog’s stomach. The vet might also give your dog activated charcoal to absorb any remaining toxins from their bloodstream.

If your dog has started to show symptoms, such as a racing heart or seizures, your vet might want to give them IV fluids and keep them overnight to monitor their symptoms.

How Can You  Keep Chocolate Away From Your Dog?

When it comes to your dog and chocolate, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The best thing to do is to keep chocolate well out of your dog’s reach. Don’t leave bags of candy sitting on the counter or a tabletop, especially if your dog is a jumper.  Your best bet is to put the chocolate on a high shelf or in a cabinet or drawer your dog can’t access.

Another thing to pay attention to is the type of mulch you use in your garden and landscaping. Cocoa shell mulch smells like chocolate because it’s made from the shells of cocoa beans. The mulch contains high levels of theobromine and can be a source of chocolate poisoning in your pets. Your best bet is to use mulch made from other materials, such as pine.

Dogs are curious and ravenous animals and will eat anything that looks edible (and even things that don’t look edible). Even if you think your dog only consumed a small amount of chocolate, it’s better to err on the side of caution and call your vet for help as soon as possible. When you call Forever Vets Animal Hospital, an emergency animal hospital in Jacksonville, we’ll ask you about your dog and what they ate and tell you what to do next. Don’t delay; if you’re worried about your pet, give us a call.