It is holiday season and treats are everywhere. Some of my patients have already raided the stocking stash and after Santa comes, even more goodies will be lying around. We are baking and snacking and our dogs are a part of the family. Why can your dog not be a part of all the merry making like everyone else? Well, there is a very good reason. Many of our treats and goodies contain chocolate. Dogs are different from humans. There are ingredients in the chocolate that can make them very ill, or could even be fatal.
There are two ingredients toxic to dogs in chocolate, theobromine and caffeine. Caffeine can cause tremors, increased heart rate, and other cardiovascular side effects. Theobromine is actually the more dangerous of the two, as even low doses of it will require medical treatment.
Each dog will react differently to the ingestion of chocolate, so if you see your dog eat it, don’t waste time searching for the answer online. If your regular vet is open, they are your first stop. If not, then call the animal ER, or even the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435. If suspect your dog ate chocolate, you need to call!
It will help if you know what type of chocolate it was and how much was in the package. Different kinds of chocolate contain differing amounts of the toxic components. White chocolate and milk chocolate are the least hazardous. Dark chocolate and Baker’s chocolate are the most hazardous, since they contain the highest amounts of theobromine.
Your vet will need to know how roughly much was consumed and then will then be able to calculate the toxic dose to use as a guide for the aggressiveness of treatment. Also, bring the label because it contains information about any other ingredients, like xylitol (which is toxic on its own). It helps to know what kind of wrapper might have gone down with the chocolate too, in case it could cause a physical obstruction.
Also, if you can remember how much of the chocolate was left in the bag, the vet would appreciate an idea of how much was consumed. Ask your family members if they know before you leave. If you are not sure, it is always better to assume the dog ate more than he did and be aggressive in treatment, rather than be sorry because you were too conservative.
Chocolate is not the only holiday offender, but is one of the more common ones. Other kinds of “people food” can cause problems too. Be overly cautious about keeping things out of reach of nosey canines. Have a happy and safe holiday with no visits to the animal ER!