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Dog Chocolate Poisoning Timeline

clock image with time lapse

The wrapping paper was torn to shreds and the remnants of chocolate wrappers were scattered over the floor.

Our hearts dropped. Muffy, our family dog, had gotten into the chocolate under the Christmas Tree. I don’t have any idea how she smelled it through the plastic, but she did.

Many dogs will get into chocolate at one point or another and when that happens time is of the essence. Here’s a comprehensive dog chocolate poisoning timeline so you know what to expect and what to do if this happens to you.

(BTW… Muffy was just fine – thankfully. But it was a BIG scare)

What Happens When Your Dog Eats Chocolate?

dachshund standing on counter eating chocolates from a heart shaped box

Although dogs are fond of eating sweets, chocolate is poisonous for them due to one of its ingredients, Theobromine. The metabolism of this chemical is extremely slow in dogs. They can however eat the chocolate substitute carob or “fake chocolate” like what is found in these recipes.

Consequently, Theobromine accumulates into the body of a dog and becomes toxic. Just like caffeine, Theobromine is heart-stimulant and diuretic, which is clearly observable in the symptoms of chocolate poisoning. 

How much Chocolate is Harmful to Dogs? 

Plain chocolate bar on white background

All kinds and quantities of chocolate are harmful to dogs but the severity of the damage is dependent on a couple of things. Firstly, we need to determine the type of chocolate consumed.

The golden rule is that the effects of eating chocolate are directly proportional to its concentration. This means that the darker the chocolate, the worse the impact. The different levels of Theobromine in different chocolates are the reason behind these variations. For instance, white chocolate is the least dangerous while cocoa powder is the most lethal one. 

The second factor that helps us to estimate the level of sickness is the quantity of ingested chocolate. The significance of this stat is strongly linked with the size of your dog.

Generally, it is believed that the smaller the dog, the larger the risk. The weight of the dog is an important measurement here because a lighter dog will need a smaller quantity of chocolate (in comparison to a big dog) to get poisoned.   

Symptoms of Chocolate Poisoning

Border collie laying under blanket on couch

The duration it takes symptoms to appear is linked with the quantity of chocolate consumed. If a dog has eaten too much chocolate for its size, it is highly likely that the symptoms will appear in the first couple of hours. In the case of ingesting smaller quantities, they may take several hours to show up. Some common symptoms of chocolate poisoning are listed below.

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness
  • Frequent Urination
  • Hyperactivity
  • Elevated Heart Beat
  • Muscle Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Death

Dog Chocolate Poisoning Timeline

Dog Chocolate Poisoning Timeline chart

First Doubt (0-15 minutes)

As soon as you find a reason to believe that your dog has eaten chocolate, you should start helping your pet. Firstly, you need to figure out the type and quantity of ingested chocolate. This will help you to determine the severity of the situation. The packaging of the chocolate, brownie, or cake holds immense value, if available. 

Call your vet and provide him/her with all the information you have gathered. You should also tell the weight and breed of your dog for the best possible diagnosis. Depending on how cricital the situation is, the vet may advise you to bring the dog to the clinic or induce immediate vomiting, at home.

The basic goal is to get Theobromine out of the dog’s system as soon as possible. Vomiting is only helpful if it is induced within 2 hours of ingestion.     

In order to induce vomiting at home, you will need to give your dog some Hydrogen Peroxide. Follow the instructions of your vet very carefully because a small mistake can make things even worse.

Generally, we need 1 tablespoon of Hydrogen Peroxide for every 20 pounds of body weight. You can use either a medicine dropper or a syringe to feed the dog. 

Keeping Calm (15-60 minutes)

This is the period where your pet needs your help to stay calm. In extreme cases, the dog might start feeling the inconvenience. This can be identified by a substantial increase in the water consumption of your pet. Likewise, you may observe restlessness in his/her behavior.

Ensure a continuous supply of drinking water and keep monitoring your dog for symptoms. Don’t leave it alone as your company will help him/her emotionally. 

Start Treatment (60-120 minutes)

If the symptoms of chocolate poisoning start appearing in this duration, it’s time to visit your vet. This is an indication that there is something serious and your dog needs medical assistance. Taking into consideration that vomiting was induced timely, the vet may decide to use Activated Charcoal

Its toxin-absorbing abilities prevent Theobromine from reaching the bloodstream of the dog. It absorbs all the remaining Theobromine from the digestive system that was left behind after vomiting. In order to make sure that all the poisons are removed, activated charcoal may be used multiple times. 

Monitoring Period (4-6 hours)

Once the basic treatment has been offered to the dog, it is observed closely for any signs of symptoms in the next 4-6 hours. If none of the symptoms appear in this time, your pet is on its way to recovery. Otherwise, you may have to introduce supportive therapy to help your dog. 

Therapy (Up to 72 hours)

A general supportive therapy takes around 72 hours after which the dog is free from all toxins. During this period, vets use IV Fluids to dilute Theobromine levels in the blood of your dog. This leads to increased urination as harmful chemicals are being excreted from the body. In extreme cases, Valium could be used to control muscle tremors and seizures. 

The Bottom Line

British Bull Dog with Chin resting on table next to plate of chocolate chip cookies

Given the fact that dogs love eating, a dog parent should always be on guard. Due to their strong sense of smell, dogs can always find chocolate in the house. As a result, you need to make sure that all forms of chocolate are not only hidden but also inaccessible for your pet. Therefore, always store chocolate in a high place and a sealed container to avoid any trouble.  

Most of the dogs affected by chocolate poisoning do recover well with no lasting health issues. Having said that, the chances of a complete recovery are bright if you know what to do and how to do it. Although we must hope for the best all the time, we should prepare for the worst. In the case of a calamity, don’t panic and contact either your vet or the emergency pet poison helpline

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