I don’t know about you, but I LOVE chocolate.
It’s probably one of my favourite snacks and who do I love to share my favourite snacks with? My dog! However, we all have heard that chocolate is not good for dogs, but we never have been told why.
What is toxic about chocolate? The main toxic ingredient of chocolate to dogs is theobromine: a chemical structure that is naturally found in the cocoa plant. Cocoa is then processed to give us our decadent and beloved chocolate. The second toxic ingredient found in chocolate, is caffeine.
What do these toxic ingredients do? Theobromine has the ability to inhibit enzymes that control our nervous system. Also, Theobromine constricts blood vessels which increases heart rate to a dangerous and life threatening level. For the caffeine content of chocolate, it increases heart rate and causes hyper activeness.
How do you know if a dog has been in contact with chocolate? The primary symptoms of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhoea ,weakness ,thirst and frequent urination. The secondary symptoms, which differ between dog breed and size, are irregular heartbeats, muscle tremors, seizures, restlessness and loss of coordination.
What do I do if my dog has chocolate poisoning? I would consult your local vet before trying to treat chocolate poisoning by yourself. Non-severe and severe cases show the same symptoms, so unless you know personally how much chocolate your dog ate, it would be difficult to decide what to do. In non-severe cases, chocolate poisoning is easily treatable. Induced vomiting can eliminate the amount of chocolate in the stomach. We all know chocolate melts in the heat, so chocolate would most definitely melt in the stomach. When it melts, it can rest there until it’s absorbed. The less chocolate resting in the stomach, the better! In severe cases, when muscle tremors and seizures are present, medication is necessary. If the dog has irregular heartbeats, medication could be given to aide that as well.
How much is too much? Different breeds and different sizes of dogs were found to be more or less susceptible to chocolate poisoning. That pretty much means that a huge Great Dane could tolerate a lot more chocolate than a small Chihuahua.
What types of chocolate are more harmful? Dry cocoa powder is the most toxic to dogs, due to its strong concentration of theobromine at 28.5mg per gram of powder. The second most toxic type of chocolate is unsweetened baking chocolate that contains 16mg per gram of theobromine. Those little chocolate Easter eggs, which contain more wax than chocolate in my opinion, are probably the least likely to cause harm. The Rule of thumb: The purer or darker the chocolate, the more toxic it could potentially be.
How come chocolate doesn’t harm humans? Surprisingly, it can! If a person was to indulge in way too much chocolate, they could have theobromine poisoning too! The toxic amount of chocolate for humans is a huge amount, so we don’t hear of this happening often. Humans have different enzymes to digest food, so our systems can accept higher theobromine concentrations.
If you think about it, NOT sharing chocolate with your dog is a win-win for both parties. No sick puppies and… more for me!
— Missy McMahan
Missy McMahan is 9th Street Barking Lot's newest Pack Member, specializing in animal nutrition. Missy has her Bachelor's Degree in Animal Science from Dalhousie University, and is in the process of becoming a Certified Canine Nutritionist.