What Should I Do if the Dog Ate a Piece of Chocolate Cake?

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Chocolate can be toxic for dogs.
Chocolate can be toxic for dogs. (Image: the dog sits image by Aliaksandr Zabudzko from Fotolia.com)

While chocolate cake might be a tasty treat for many humans, their canine companions shouldn’t eat the dessert. Chocolate can be toxic for dogs, causing symptoms ranging from vomiting to seizures and even death, depending on the amount of chocolate a dog ingests.

Why Chocolate Is Bad for Dogs

The specific chemical in chocolate that negatively affects dogs is theobromine. The amount of the chemical depends on the type of chocolate; baking chocolate having the heaviest concentration of theobromine, while semi-sweet and milk chocolate contain lesser amounts respectively. The severity of a dog’s reaction depends on how much chocolate the animal ate, the dog’s size and the dog’s sensitivity to the compound, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine's Animal Health Literacy Campaign.

Symptoms of Chocolate Poisoning

Theobromine toxicity can manifest in a range of symptoms, many mimicking those of more simple gastrointestinal illnesses, according to the Michigan Humane Society. These can include diarrhea, vomiting, hyperactivity, increased heart rate, frequent urinating and seizures. Severe cases may see more advanced issues, such as cardiac arrest, comas and other neurological issues.

What To Do

If a dog eats a piece of chocolate cake, it is best to contact a veterinarian--the animal’s regular care provider, if possible--immediately. Do not try to make the dog vomit at home, warns the Michigan Humane Society. If it’s necessary, the veterinarian will administer charcoal or another chemical to induce vomiting.

The veterinarian may ask the owner to continue to observe the dog rather than bring the animal in for care, depending on the amount and type of chocolate in the cake, but it is likely the doctor will want to perform a full physical exam including blood, urine and other tests, according to PetMD. Provide the veterinarian with information regarding the dog’s size, how large the piece of cake was and what type of chocolate was in the dessert. If the cake or chocolate is store-bought, bring the ingredients list to the veterinarian.

What Happens Next?

It is best to keep the dog in a calm and quiet area after receiving veterinary care. Depending on how severe the chocolate poisoning, the animal may need an IV to receive fluids for a day or longer while recovering. In the following days be sure to feed the dog a bland diet, recommends PetMD.

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