Fin did not bother to chew the chocolate. To be fair, if I thought someone was going to try to steal my chocolate, I’d probably snarf it down as quick as possible too. And while it was upsetting that the Easter goodies were gone in seconds, it was more worrisome that Fin is a dog – and a mere 25 lbs at that! He arrived at the hospital within half an hour of enjoying his ‘treat’, wagging his tail with a fierce enthusiasm. Fin seemingly unaware of his mom’s considerable concern, wiggled his bum and sniffed with excitement as I checked him over.
The chocolate he’d eaten was prepared at a bakery, then covered in clear plastic wrap. The sticker label had the name of the company but nothing more – no ingredients, no weight in grams or ounces. We had no way of knowing how much chocolate little Fin had eaten.
Chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical that in high enough doses, is toxic to dogs. Baking chocolate has the greatest concentration of theobromine (making it the most likely to cause symptoms) followed by semisweet, dark, and then milk chocolate. Milder signs of toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea and hyperactivity. Severe signs of toxicity include tremors, seizures and abnormal heart rhythms which can lead to death. Anytime we suspect a dog has ingested a toxic amount of chocolate, induction of vomiting is recommended. The sooner this is done the better. Some patients also require gastric lavage, aka ‘getting your stomach pumped’. If it’s beyond 4 hours since ingestion, induction of vomiting will be of limited benefit. Patients that are showing symptoms of toxicity need supportive care (hospitalization, intravenous fluids etc.) until the chocolate has been metabolized and cleared from the body.
Within about 20 minutes of arriving at the hospital, poor Fin was busy heaving up chunks of chocolate along with bits of his breakfast. As unpleasant as it all was, it was much better than the alternative had he digested and absorbed that amount of chocolate. And, I’m happy to say that Fin bears no hard feelings – he left the hospital looking bright, wagging his entire back end.