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Dog Care : After Your Dog Eats Chocolate

The ASPCA, Susan Thorpe-Vargas, M.S, Ph.D. in her article "Poisoned," and others strongly encourage pet owners to be prepared for a poisoning. When time can make the difference between life and death, it is important that the owner know steps to take immediately and have the first-aid tools on hand to take those steps.

To prepare, get knowledgeable. You'll avoid panic if you have educated yourself. Videos are great because they're convenient. A video is easy to play, can be viewed by a family together, and is a great way to relax in your easy chair while learning skills that can save the life of your pet.

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Next be prepared by having on hand the tools you might need. The first-aid treatment for chocolate poisoning involves removing it from the body, quickly, before too much time passes and the theobromine has circulated, damaging the gastrointestinal tract in the process. The treatment includes:

  • inducing vomiting, which removes, and then administering
  • activated charcoal slurry, which absorbs.

The sooner this is done, the less the effects of the poison. That, in itself, explains the importance of dog owners having an emergency kit in their homes plus the knowledge for quick first-aid treatment.

To induce vomiting, Michelle Bamberger in Help! The Quick Guide to First Aid for Your Dog, Howell Bookhouse, New York 1993, recommends using three percent hydrogen peroxide, one-to-two teaspoons by mouth every 15 minutes until vomiting occurs. Alternatively, she suggests using Syrup of Ipecac. Use, she says, two to three teaspoons, only once.

You can get Syrup of Ipecac at almost any pharmacy. You do not need a prescription from your doctor. Syrup of Ipecac is inexpensive and will keep for several years if stored at room temperature.

After vomiting, Bamberger says to give the dog by mouth activated charcoal mixed with water to a slurry consistency. The dosage is 1 teaspoon for dogs who are less than 25 pounds and 2 teaspoons for dogs weighing more than 25 pounds.

Put Activated Charcoal in Your Emergency Kit

Toxiban Activated Charcoal. The substance is a fine powder form of processed charcoal that binds to many types of poisons and can keep them from being absorbed into the bloodstream. This product isn't easy to find online. We did compare prices when we found it and know this is a good deal. Check it out, getting some now, before you forget.

Toxiban might be wise to have in your pet emergency kit because it also is effective in adsorbing other poisonous substances eaten or drunk by dogs or cats. These toxins include, but are not limited to, strychnine, organophosphate and carbamate insecticides, herbicides, rodenticides, depressants and analgesics.

Some people have recommended burnt toast if you do not have activated charcoal on hand. However, at Tueskegee University veterinarians teach their toxicology students that "burned or charred toast is ineffective." (See: Tuskegee University Vet Med Toxicology Class )

In the event your dog has eaten chocolate, always gather as much information as possible. Note the type of chocolate the dog ate, how much chocolate was eaten and approximately when your dog ate it. Write this information down. Should you need medical help, your veterinarian will appreciate any facts you can provide. If you can't get this information quickly, don't belabor it. Write down what you can.

If several hours have passed between the time your dog ate a toxic does of chocolate and your finding of him or her, its possible that your dog is displaying severe symptoms. If your dog is having seizures or is comatose, don't delay, immediately take your dog to your veterinarian.

On the other hand, begin administering emergency treatment and contact your veterinarian or call the pet poison experts at the National Animal Poison Information Center at The University of Illinois in Urbana. Phone toll-free: (888) 252-7387. The Center provides computer-supported telephone consultation for potential poisonings. There is a nominal charge.

If your dog doesn't eat enough chocolate to induce toxicity, but is vomiting (without your prodding) or has diarrhea, it's likely that it's the chocolate's high fat content that is the culprit. Watch your dog carefully. You don't want him or her to dehydrate. Provide plenty of fluids.

If your dog's symptoms don't clear up within eight hours, call your veterinarian. If your dog is very small or young, call your veterinarian within four hours.

A good outcome is likely if treatment is provided within 4 to 6 hours of ingestion. The effects of chocolate can linger for 12-36 hours, though, so your dog may require hospitalization. -- CJMF 6/03

First Aid Tools That Should Be In Your Home

More Information

Chocolate Poisoning: Why? And How Much is Too Much

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Page Last Modified: Saturday, 17-Feb-2007 15:18:11 EST