Is chocolate poisonous to dogs if they eat it?

YES! Chocolate is not just unhealthy for dogs - it is actually poisonous for them. The reason is that chocolate has a compound called theobromine, which in dogs stimulates their hearts and can cause it to beat much too fast. This can lead to heart failures in the dog. Other symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, and unusual thirst combined with frequent urination. These will be uncomfortable for the dog, but the heart problems are what you've got to worry about because they can be fatal. You may not see any signs of sickness for several hours, but they can suddenly show up with death within 24 hours of eating the chocolate.


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Different chocolates have different amounts of theobromine, so some are more or less dangerous. Cooking chocolate and cocoa powder are the most dangerous kinds. This means if your dog eats a chocolate cake, you need to take it very seriously, even if it only gets part of it. The least dangerous is milk chocolate, and the dog would need to eat more of that, relatively, to be affected. Even something the size of a couple of snack candy bars can be deadly to a small dog, however, so take it seriously. Because as a lay person you can't tell whether or not your dog ate a really poisonous chocolate or one that won't hurt it too much, you need to err on the side of contacting a vet.

What do I do if my dog ate chocolate?

1) Call your vet IMMEDIATELY. It's best to go get the dog checked out even if you think it was a small amount of chocolate. If you get there within a few hours, it will be much easier on you - the vet can induce vomiting and get it out of the dog's system without it absorbing much of the theobromine. If it's been longer, it may take an IV along with some more serious treatments. If it's at night or on a weekend, then go to the emergency vet. You should have one in virtually any area, and if not dial 411 to find one.

2) Keep your dog from moving around too much. Do not let it play or exercise. Remember, the risk you are trying to avoid is a heart issue - exercise will speed up the heart rate and make it MUCH more dangerous.

3) If you absolutely can't get a hold of a vet in your area, call 1-888-252-7387. This is the National Animal Poison Information Center. It charges a fee, but they may be able to help you out. I've also seen the number listed as 1-900-680-0000.

4) If none of the above work for you for whatever reason, and you have to try to do something yourself, then the best advice I can give you is to try to induce vomiting in the dog. This isn't really a good idea to try unless you have to. Get some hydrogen peroxide. Mix it in with water, about 5% hydrogen peroxide (you want it diluted). Then give the dog several teaspoons every 10 minutes until it vomits.


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