My rescue dog, Tugs, had lived with us less than two months when he devoured an entire pan of dark chocolate brownies with white icing.
My husband called me frantically while I was standing in a dressing room about 30 minutes away. He worked night shift, and he awoke to start dinner when he found an empty brownie pan on the kitchen floor. “I think that could kill Tugs,” I told him. “You need to call the vet.”
And so began our adventure in preventing death by chocolate, canine edition. Thankfully, Tugs survived. Your pup can too if you learn how to react if your dog gets a sweet tooth.
Dangerous Sweet Tooth
Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine, which originates in cacao beans. Theobromine has similar side effects as caffeine and other stimulants and it is toxic in high amounts. Side effects include tremors, seizures, cardiac arrest, and respiratory failure; as little as 115 milligrams per kilogram of body weight can be lethal in pets. The substance has a half-life of about 17 hours in dogs, and they also metabolize it more slowly than humans do. Dark chocolate, like the kind Tugs consumed, is even more dangerous to dogs because it contains a higher concentration of theobromine.
Who To Call
As novice pet parents, we knew Tugs was in trouble, but we didn’t quite know how to problem solve. We started by calling our veterinarian’s emergency hotline. They told us that we had to call the Animal Poison Control service (for a $65 fee) before they could see Tugs. We paid our fee and spoke to the on-call vet. She had a dozen questions: How much chocolate did he eat? How long ago? Had he had anything to drink since? We responded with unknowns; Tugs had been unattended for five or six hours. We followed her advice, called back as instructed, and were ultimately sent us to the doggy ER.
What To Do
The emergency vet explained to us how to use hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting. We followed the instructions, and Tugs threw up. If you find yourself in our shoes, remember that only a vet can provide specific instructions for your pet despite the numerous “how to” sites out there. Case in point: we still ended up at the doggy ER because no one could tell how much theobromine he had already digested. A stomach pump, activated charcoal, and several hundred dollars later, Tugs and his iron stomach were resting comfortably at home.
Once we learned that Tugs could clear tabletops, my husband and I did our part to deflect his scavenger tendencies. Baked goods now stay inside the fridge, in the pantry, or on shelves taller than we are. We regularly gate off the kitchen, warn guests not to leave goodies within his grasp, and discreetly “reorganize” countertops in others’ homes when the three of us visit. We also monitor Tugs extra closely during treat-heavy holidays like Easter, Halloween, and Christmas.
We were lucky, and Tugs has been happy and healthy for the past three and a half years. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for my husband – he hasn’t had homemade brownies with white icing since.