Dogs and Chocolate: Why is it dangerous?
We are constantly warned that chocolate is bad for dogs. It is one of the first things you learn as a new dog owner.
Though we are cautioned against giving them any, many dog owners break this rule and cave in the face of their beloved pet, thinking they deserve a treat. Vets now name chocolate as one of the most common causes of dog poisoning. This is because dog owners are uninformed and are unaware that the consequences of their actions could be fatal.
The reason chocolate is toxic to dogs, in particular, is due to components in chocolate called methylxanthines, specifically theobromine which is a stimulant. This substance is okay for humans to ingest as we can easily metabolize it. However, this is not the case for dogs. Though they can process it, it is at a much slower rate than humans and because of this slow process, the substance can build up within their systems reaching a toxic level that can be fatal.
Symptoms and Remedies for chocolate poisoning in dogs
If your dog has found some chocolate without your knowledge, they may only have ingested a small amount which may result in an upset stomach which does not warrant great panic. However, if they have ingested a significant amount of chocolate they can suffer from the following symptoms; vomiting, diarrhoea, rapid breathing, increased heart rate and seizures. If your dog has these symptoms they have clearly consumed a large amount of chocolate and you should immediately see your vet.
However, if they have ingested a small amount, and you promptly get them to a vet before they start displaying any symptoms there is an excellent chance that they will recover after appropriate care is given. If your pet exhibits mild signs of poisoning such as vomiting or refusing their food, there is also a high chance that they will be perfectly fine. However, if your dog has ingested a large amount of chocolate and they display signs of severe poisoning such as seizures and collapsing, their survival rate is, unfortunately, very low. Therefore, it is paramount that you try and avoid the problem altogether by keeping them away from all chocolate in the first place, just to be safe.
However, there is no antidote for theobromine so your vet will most likely need to induce vomiting to ensure the chocolate is out of their system. They may also administer intravenous fluids to help with dehydration from the vomiting, and certain medications may be given to control their heart rate and prevent any seizure activity. It is wise that you get your dog to a vet immediately if you think they may have ingested chocolate, do not wait and see will they develop any symptoms. It will also be helpful to your vet if you take note of what kind of chocolate your dog has eaten and how much they have consumed as this will help in determining the best course of treatment to take.
Types of chocolate
The type and the amount of chocolate your dog has eaten are also crucial pieces of information to have, as certain types of chocolate contain a higher percentage of theobromine making them much more toxic to dogs. Cocoa powder is the most toxic variety as it contains the highest proportion of theobromine. Cooking chocolate follows this is terms of toxicity. Chocolate which is darker presents a greater risk to dogs as it contains a higher percentage of this toxin than milk chocolate. However, because it is found in the cacao plant and is, therefore, present in cocoa powder, many assume that white chocolate is safe to give to dogs as it contains no cocoa powder. This belief is not necessarily true as it does contain trace amounts of theobromine. However, poisoning is unlikely due to the small amount present. However, theobromine can be added to chocolate so it is important that you are vigilant.
How much chocolate is toxic to dogs?
The volume of chocolate your dog has consumed is also important as small amounts to a large or medium size dog most likely will not do them any harm. However, to a smaller breed, it can be toxic as they are unable to digest it. It is crucial that you monitor your dog for any signs of poisoning regardless of their weight just to be cautious as it is hard to determine how much they have eaten and how much theobromine is actually present in the type of chocolate they have eaten.
As any pet owner knows, dogs are crafty and will find what you want to stay hidden, and chocolate is no exception. To avoid this, you should ensure that any chocolate in the house is out of reach of your dogs. It should be stored up high so there is no chance of ingestion. This also includes drinking chocolate mix. It is also important that you inform any guests or family members that chocolate should not be used as a reward for good behavior or as a treat as the consequences could be dire. Dogs are also like hoovers and will inhale anything that falls to the floor so it is wise to teach them when they are young that chocolate or anything that falls to the floor is off limits to them. You can do this by training them with a particular command like “no” or “leave it”. These steps should help with keeping your dog away from any chocolate in the house.
Therefore, it is crucial to your pets health that you keep them away from chocolate. There are many other options for dog treats, and chocolate should never be used as a substitute. Instead, you should give them treats that are specially produced for dogs as you know that they are one hundred percent safe for them. There are now hundreds of varieties of treats to choose from so there is no need to give your dog food which is toxic.