The Hidden Dangers Of Chocolate
The worst a Hershey bar can do to you is add an inch to your hips. But that same candy – even in relatively small amounts – can make a dog very sick. Make no mistake: For them, chocolate is poison.
While most people have heard that chocolate is in fact a danger to dogs (and it is), the questions remain: Why? Exactly how dangerous is it? What do I do if my dog eats chocolate?
In addition to a high fat content, chocolate (cocoa) contains high amounts of methylxanthines, specifically one called theobromine, along with caffeine, two different types of stimulants that affect the central nervous system and the heart muscle, as well as increasing the frequency of urination. As a general rule the darker the chocolate (higher percentage of cocoa), the more theobromine it will contain.
Why is it toxic?
Theobromine is found in products of the cocoa tree. It affects humans similarly to a light dose of caffeine and is metabolized by the body to half levels within 6-10 hours.
Dogs and other domestic animals are not able to metabolize theobromine as quickly as humans meaning it can put greater strain on the animal’s nervous system and kidneys.
Symptoms of Poisoning
If your 50-pound dog gets his paws on a single chocolate-chip cookie, it probably won't cause him serious problems. However, if he gobbles up more – a pan of brownies, say – he may develop vomiting or diarrhea.
Once toxic levels are reached, the stimulants kick in, and this is when you really have to worry. Symptoms include: restlessness, hyperactivity, muscle twitching, cardiac arrhythmias, increased urination and/or excessive panting. If your pet isn't treated, he could go into a seizure – possibly even die.
How Much Is Toxic?
Chocolate in any form is extremely dangerous for dogs and the results of eating it can be life threatening.
The size of your dog in combination with the type of chocolate (dark, milk, white) as well as the quality (amount/strength of cocoa) of chocolate consumed, can greatly affect how much your dog can eat without side effects. If you believe chocolate has been consumed in any amount, it is best to take action and get your dog medical attention as soon as possible.
The amount of chocolate that it takes to poison your pet depends on the type of chocolate he's eaten and his weight. White chocolate has the least amount of stimulants and baking chocolate or cocoa beans have the highest. Here is a list of the most common sources of chocolate and the amount that leads to toxicity:
• White Chocolate. Mild signs of toxicity can occur when 45 ounces per pound of body weight is ingested. Severe toxicity occurs when 90 ounces per pound of body weight in ingested. This means that a 20-pound dog would need to ingest at least 55 pounds of white chocolate to cause nervous system signs. A 10-pound cat would need to ingest 27 pounds. Yes, that is twenty seven pounds! White chocolate has very little real chocolate in it. Therefore, the levels of caffeine and theobromine are very low. Tremendous amounts of white chocolate need to be ingested in order to cause toxic signs from chocolate. It is highly unlikely that white chocolate ingestion will result in the toxic neurologic signs but, the severe gastrointestinal effects from a high fat food develop with much less white chocolate ingestion.
Is white chocolate dangerous for my dog?
White chocolate is technically not “chocolate,” but can still be dangerous to your dog if consumed in large quantities. Made with cocoa butter rather than cocoa solids (like dark or milk chocolate) it does not contain the same dangerous levels of theobromine. It does contain a higher amount of sugar and fat than other types of chocolate however, making it detrimental to a dog’s pancreas.
• Milk Chocolate. Mild signs of toxicity can occur when 0.7 ounces per pound of body weight is ingested. Severe signs occur when 2 ounces per pound of body weight is ingested. This means that a little less than one pound of milk chocolate can be toxic to the nervous system of a 20-pound dog. A 10-pound cat would need to ingest 1/2 pound.
• Semi-Sweet Chocolate. Mild signs of toxicity can occur when 1/3 ounce per pound of body weight is ingested. Severe signs occur when 1 ounce per pound of body weight is ingested. This means that as little as 6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate can be toxic to the nervous system of a 20-pound dog. A 10-pound cat would need to ingest 3 ounces.
• Baking Chocolate. Mild signs of toxicity can occur when 0.1 ounce per pound of body weight is ingested. Severe signs occur when 0.3 ounce per pound of body weight is ingested. Two small one-ounce squares of baking chocolate can be toxic to a 20-pound dog. A 10-pound cat would need to ingest 1 ounce of baking chocolate. This type of chocolate has the highest concentration of caffeine and theobromine and very little needs to be ingested before signs of illness become apparent.
Even if your pet doesn't eat enough chocolate to induce toxicity, the candy's high fat content may cause him to vomit or have diarrhea at much smaller amounts than those shown. If that happens, watch him carefully. If his symptoms don't clear up within 4-8 hours, call your veterinarian; aside from toxicity issues, you don't want the animal to dehydrate. Try to be as precise as you can about the type of chocolate the animal ate, how much he took and approximately when he ate it.
What can I do if my dog eats chocolate?
If chocolate has been consumed, call your veterinarian immediately. It will probably be important to make your dog throw up to remove the toxins from the body as quickly as possible.
You can make your dog throw up by giving him a few teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide by mouth. Your veterinarian can provide further instructions regarding the correct amount for your dog.
The sooner you get help, the better off your pet will be. If the animal is showing signs of toxicity, he has a good prognosis if he's treated within four to six hours of ingestion. The effects of the chocolate can linger for 12 to 36 hours, though, so your pet may require hospitalization.
I really want to share my love of chocolate with my dog- is there anything that is safe?
Carob is a safe alternative as it looks like chocolate, but does not contain any theobromine and is low in sugar and fat. Bakeries that specialize in dog goodies will often use this as an alternative.
There are also many “white chocolate” look-a-likes that do not contain any chocolate at all. Often known as “coatings,” these can be safe for dogs in small quantities.
If you are unsure about the ingredients or what will be safe to feed your dogs- it is always best to check with your veterinarian.
People love chocolate and if dogs ate chocolate – they would probably like it too. But until there is a new kind of chocolate that is safe for dogs – PAWS OFF!
Adapted from: http://www.petplace.com/dogs/why-dogs-can-t-eat-chocolate/page1.aspx
and: http://www.dogchannel.com/dog-news/2011/06/22/sorry-willy-wonka-chocolate-is-toxic-to-dogs.aspx (The Hidden Dangers of Chocolate)
One other fact from Helpful Buckeye that needs to be mentioned at this point is that there isn't much in the way of chocolate poisoning seen in cats...The reason being that, as our regular readers already know, cats don't have well-developed taste buds for sweet things and, therefore, show very little interest in all things chocolate. If any of you have an interesting "chocolate" story, send it to Helpful Buckeye at: firstname.lastname@example.org or submit a comment at the end of this issue.
SPORTS NEWS The LA Dodgers had an up-and-down week...losing 3 games in St. Louis but then finishing the road trip with a 3-game sweep of the hated Giants in San Francisco, the last 2 games being shut-outs. We return home to LA tomorrow tied with the Giants for 1st place in our division. The pick-up of Hanley Ramirez this week has given our offense a really needed jump start.
The Pittsburgh Steelers opened training camp this week with a divisive hold-out involving our best wide receiver, Mike Wallace. He's the fastest receiver in the NFL and losing him would leave a hole in our offense.
PERSONAL STUFF It's that time of the summer when the herbs are growing and growing and growing. To be able to walk a few steps and harvest my very own basil, Italian parsley, chives, rosemary, and lavender is a treat for us as we put together various sandwiches, salads, etc. Also, tomatoes are coming in to the markets in luscious condition!
Helpful Buckeye has this important suggestion for all of our readers: If anybody means something really special to you, take a minute this week to tell them so...even if you do so frequently, say it some more.
~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~