No BonBons for Bowsers

Keep chocolate away from your dog.

It’s almost here. That mid-winter holiday created by florists, jewelers and chocolatiers as an excuse for people to give roses, baubles and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates to their sweethearts.

Those of us who love our dogs may also want to shower them with a special treat to mark the day. Maybe it will be a new chew toy, a bone or a comfy new bed. But, whatever you do, don’t be tempted to give your beloved dog those chocolates that you didn’t like so much after you bit into them.

Why is chocolate so bad for dogs?

Chocolate contains both theobromine and caffeine, both of which can elevate your pampered pooch’s heart rate and nervous system. While humans can metabolize these substances efficiently and to little or no affect, dogs do not have that same ability, and the concentration of theobromine in their systems can become highly toxic, causing illness and – in some cases – death.

Different types of chocolate contain different levels of theobromine, with cocoa powder, baker’s chocolate and dark chocolate having the highest level and white chocolate having the lowest. However, many chocolate manufacturers have recently begun adding more theobromine to their products, making it even more crucial that you keep all chocolates and chocolate products well out of reach of your dog.

What can I do if Bowsers gets into the bonbons?

The first thing to do is to try to ascertain how much chocolate your dog has consumed. If you have a large dog who has consumed a small number of chocolates, he or she may show fewer symptoms and not become seriously ill. Even so, it is important to monitor your dog closely and watch for symptoms of toxicity. Better be safe than sorry, and call your vet, even if you think your dog has only eaten one or two Hershey’s Kisses.

If you have a small dog, or if your large dog ate the entire box of Whitman’s samplers, Do Not Wait – Call your veterinarian immediately or dial the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-213-6680.

What are the symptoms of chocolate poisoning in your dog?

Symptoms that your dog may be suffering from chocolate toxicity are varied and include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Elevated heart rate and body temperature
  • Rapid breathing
  • Muscular rigidity
  • Frequent urination
  • Irritability or restlessness
  • Seizures
  • Weakness
  • Cardiac failure
  • Coma

These symptoms can appear anywhere between 4 and 24 hours after ingesting chocolate products and they can last up to 72 hours. Dogs who are very old or who already suffer from medical issues are particularly vulnerable to chocolate toxicity.

What can the vet do to help if Bowsers has any of these symptoms?

Of course, the most important thing is to get treatment at the earliest indication of chocolate poisoning. Treatment regimens vary from simply monitoring your dog and watching for any worsening of symptoms, to bringing your dog into the clinic. Your vet may induce vomiting and administer doses of activated charcoal, which helps move the toxins out of the body before they can be fully absorbed into the bloodstream.

In more serious cases, your vet may need to give IV fluids and other medications to counteract the effects of the theobromine. In extreme cases, you may need to leave your pup overnight for monitoring.

Now that you know how potentially serious it can be if your dog eats chocolate, make sure to keep anything containing chocolate well out of reach. And, be sure that your children also understand the importance of keeping the bonbons away from Bowsers.