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What To Do If Your Dog Ingests Chocolate or Another Toxic Substance

Both Valentine’s Day and Halloween are notorious high-chocolate holidays that can quickly turn bittersweet if your furry friend gets into the candy stash. They're also times when we're distracted while caught up in all the fun. There's no good time to let your guard down when chocolate is around.

If you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, or if she is showing signs of chocolate poisoning—vomiting, diarrhea, agitation, seizures, etc.—here's what to do: 

Immediately call your veterinarian

Call your veterinarian immediately and call the Pet Poison Helpline (855-213-6680) for advice. If your veterinarian suspects chocolate toxicity, he will induce vomiting in your dog. Up to six hours after ingestion, your veterinarian will be able to get rid of most of the chocolate. Your dog will also need to be monitored for 12-24 hours to track symptoms.

Survey the situation

Depending on your dog’s size and the amount and type of chocolate eaten, your veterinarian will recommend a treatment. According to Dr. Jerry Klein, Chief Veterinarian Officer for the American Kennel Club, “A Great Dane eating a Hershey’s Kiss versus a Miniature Pinscher that gets into a bar of semi-sweet chocolate are completely different cases.” The darker the chocolate, the higher the toxicity; white chocolate is not toxic at all. The less the dog weighs, the greater the risk for toxicity.

If your dog gets into another toxic substance, such as a garden plant, take a picture of the plant and note how much your pet consumed. Providing as many details as possible to your vet will expedite your pet’s treatment.

Don’t panic, act

While pet owners will understandably be distraught when they think their dog’s life may be in jeopardy, it's in their and their furry friend's best interest to react as calmly as possible. According to a study by the journal Animal Cognition, dogs can sense when you’re stressed, which may in turn make them afraid. The best way to handle a tense situation is to remain cool and composed.

Nevertheless, if you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, or another toxic substance, be sure to react swiftly. Let your veterinarian follow the necessary medical procedures and try to stay upbeat. “More often than not, the dog has a positive outcome,” says Dr. Klein.

An ounce of prevention...

Don’t fret, pet parents. Good home safety practices can save the day. Be vigilent around holidays, when our guard is often down. All year round, keep chocolate and other toxic substances out of reach from prying paws by storing them in high cabinets or places with childproof latches. That way you'll always have peace of mind.