As a pet owner, you’re likely to have found yourself wondering whether your faithful companion can enjoy the same foods that you do. While many foods are safe for consumption by our pets, others are downright dangerous, and can even prove to be fatal if ingested. One such type of food is chocolate.
Here’s what you need to know about the effects chocolate has on dogs, and what you can do in the event that your dog ingests it.
Chocolates and Dogs: A Big No-No
While most of us may love chocolate, this sweet treat is lethal for dogs. That’s because cocoa contains an alkaloid which is called “theobromine”. This compound belongs to the same family as caffeine and is a type of stimulant. When ingested, theobromine stimulates the central nervous system, the cardiovascular system, and causes an increase in blood pressure.
The reason that chocolate is toxic for dogs and certain other animals is due to the fact that they cannot metabolize theobromine as quickly as humans can. Therefore, if your dog consumes chocolate in certain doses, they will suffer from chocolate poisoning, the side effects of which include:
- Excessive panting
- Increased urination
- Muscle twitches
- Increased body temperature
- Rapid heart rate
- Digestive problems
How much is too much?
Your dogs shouldn’t be fed chocolate under any circumstances. Period. Chocolate poisoning can be fatal for your dog depending on how much chocolate they ate, their size, age, and the type of chocolate consumed.
When trying to determine the amount of theobromine in a piece of chocolate, here’s what you should know: cocoa powder contains about sixteen times as much theobromine per ounce over milk chocolate, with most popular forms of chocolate falling somewhere between those two. White chocolate is the exception; it contains insignificant amounts of theobromine per ounce, making it extremely unlikely to harm your dog if consumed. In order for it to cause chocolate toxicity in your dog, they would need to consume a very large amount of white chocolate first.
In general, here are the typical amounts of theobromine you can expect to find in the following items:
- Milk chocolate – 50 mg/oz
- Cocoa powder – 800 mg/oz
- Dark chocolate – 150 mg/oz
- Baker’s chocolate (unsweetened) – 450 mg/oz
How to Treat a Dog That Has Eaten Chocolate
This cannot be stressed enough: take all steps necessary to ensure that your dog does not, under any circumstance, eat chocolate. Once the theobromine is in your dogs’ bloodstream, there is very little that can practically be done for them, especially at home. That’s why the best treatment method in the event that your dog has consumed chocolate is to try to prevent theobromine from entering the bloodstream.
Here’s what you can do:
- Try to induce vomiting in your dog immediately to attempt to remove as much of the chocolate as possible from their body. This can be done by getting your dog to eat 1-2 teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide.
- Once your dog has vomited, get them to eat a small amount of activated charcoal, which binds to the theobromine and keeps it from entering the bloodstream. Mix 1-2 teaspoons of activated charcoal with water and feed it to your dog.
- Make your dog drink lots of water to keep them adequately hydrated
- Contact your vet immediately. If your pet is having seizures, your vet can administer anti-convulsants.
Get Chocolate Out of the Picture
If you have a dog, you’re probably aware of how much they love to eat. If your dog comes across a piece of chocolate and they’re feeling hungry, they’re not going to know that this is something which is harmful for them. They’re going to follow their instincts and eat the chocolate.
In addition to keeping any and all types of chocolate away from your dog, you should also aim to feed them fresh, wholesome meals which adequately satisfy their hunger. This will reduce their need to consume everything they set their eyes on. Freshpet is a company that offers pet parents the option to buy foods which are made from all natural products, and are not only healthy, but also filling. You can also buy your dogs some treats or rawhide bones which will keep them entertained for many hours at a time. Remember, when it comes to food, more often than not, your dog will not know the difference between edible and inedible. It falls on pet owners to take the proper steps ensuring that their dogs don’t have access to foods which are harmful for them.