Chocolate is truly a classic favorite—it is sweet, creamy, flavorful, and irresistible. It makes you happy and picks up your mood in an instant. It is widely consumed by children and adults alike, but is it also safe for pets? Is there such a thing as chocolates for dogs?
Unfortunately, there is not.
This topic has long been talked about in the pet community—and rightfully so. Numerous studies show that it can be extremely lethal for dogs to ingest chocolate, even in small amounts.
WHAT CAUSES CHOCOLATE POISONING IN DOGS?
Chocolate is made from the seeds of Theobroma cacao. In the Merck Veterinary Manual, Gwaltney-Brant (2013) states that what makes chocolates fatal for dogs are mainly “methylxanthines theobromine (3,7-dimethylxanthine) and caffeine (1,3,7-trimethylxanthine)”. Our human bodies can process theobromine faster, but dogs can’t. It is first metabolized in their livers, recirculates, then stays in their bodies for up to 18 hours before it is excreted through their urine.
Just how much chocolate is deadly for dogs? Chocolate’s toxicity to dogs actually depends on the type and amount consumed. For example, milk chocolate has approximately 64 mg of theobromine per ounce, while unsweetened baker’s chocolate has around 450 mg per ounce. These amounts are generally already enough to trigger symptoms of poisoning in your dog such as vomiting, diarrhea, and in more severe cases, seizures. Even cocoa bean hulls, while seemingly harmless, have significant amounts of these toxins that could kill your dog.
HOW TO RECOGNIZE SIGNS OF CHOCOLATE POISONING
In a journal posted in the US National Library of Medicine-National Institutes of Health, the compound theobromine “affects the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, and respiratory system” (Finlay & Guiton, 2005). The first signs of poisoning appear 6-12 hours after ingestion and include, but are not limited to vomiting, excessive thirst, haematemesis (blood-vomiting), abnormal heart rate, restlessness, and increased urination.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR DOG EATS CHOCOLATE
If you suspect that your dog has ingested chocolate, call your veterinarian immediately. He/she may advise you to continuously monitor your dog, but depending on the severity of the symptoms, you may be asked to bring your pet to the clinic. The doctor may induce vomiting and administer IV fluids and medication to alleviate the effects of poisoning. It is also possible for your dog to stay in the clinic overnight or until they have stabilized.
For us people, too much consumption of chocolate could have risks such as obesity, diabetes, and oral problems. But chocolate for dogs is also not recommended as it is very dangerous. So think twice before trying to feed your pet a scoop of that Nutella and pick treats that are safe for them instead. Keep chocolate tins, wrappers, and boxes out of their reach—it just might save their lives.