Chocolate is toxic to dogs!
by Ralph Kratzer
Some months ago I wrote an article about deadly dangers for your dog. To remember –please click here.
Today I want to tell you of another risk for your beloved pet – the risk of chocolate!
When a person enjoys a piece of chocolate, it is difficult for him/her not to give a piece of it to his/her best friend, the dog!
Dog lovers can´t resist the longing look from their pet so the doggy will get a slice of chocolate in the end. But just a piece of the sweet is like poison for the dog… many dog owners don´t know this.
Because it contains toxins for the dog, chocolate can harm your friend considerably, and in the worst case can even cause death.
Why is chocolate poisonous to dogs? Death by chocolate is a familiar scenario in the dog world. Of course, the owners only wanted to do something good for their beloved animal, but many dog owners still do not know the effect of chocolate on their pet, and if they have heard of it they do not know the reasons.
The reason for the toxicity of chocolate for dogs is the ingredient “theobromine”. It is a stimulant that acts on the central nervous system of the animal and can cause serious cardiac problems and convulsions or internal bleeding. Even if the dog only gets a small piece of chocolate the ingredient theobromine begins to exert its harmful effect on the body of the animal. Theobromine stays about seven hours in the dog’s body until it is removed.
The symptoms are initially nonspecific and are therefore not recognized – diarrhea and vomiting are common disease symptoms in dogs and are usually completely harmless. Some dogs also feel a much stronger urge to urinate, some show an abnormal restlessness. To compensate the fluid loss they drink more than usual. As a long term effect of theobromine dogs become susceptible to worm infestation and can also suffer from hair loss. These side effects are the ones that can finally be fatal for the dog, if they are not detected.
How much chocolate can a dog eat? Small amounts of chocolate would probably not hurt a normal sized dog. From what point the amount will become harmful depends on several individual factors: eg breed, age and body size play a role. Moreover, not every type of chocolate has an equal impact on the dog, because the theobromine content varies. White chocolate is comparatively harmless, because it does not contain too much theobromine. With milk chocolate, however, more caution is necessary, dark chocolate is the most dangerous one. Basically, the higher the cocoa content, the more theobromine, the toxic for dogs.
A rough rule of thumb: 150 g milk chocolate or 15 g dark chocolate (70%) per kilogram of body weight, are toxic (source: vetpharm.uzh.ch). Looking at this rule of thumb it should be clear that for small breeds like Zwergspitz, Yorkshire Terrier, Chihuahua, Havanese or similar breeds already 1-2 ribs of chocolate can lead to poisoning.
The safest course is to give the dog no chocolate at all, because thereby the risk of poisoning is excluded. Be strong at this point when the dog is begging. Chocolate is simply not an appropriate dog food!
Store your chocolate in a way that your dog cannot get it. Unlocked cupboards and drawers at ground level can be opened by your dog, they are not a suitable storage location for your chocolate.
Treatment for theobromin poisoning (too much chocolate):
Even if the dog owner knows why chocolate is not good for his four-legged friend – it can always happen that the dog is faster or more clever than you imagine and manages to eat some chocolate one day.
The danger of theobromine is that there is no antidote for it – so it is fairly unique among all the toxic substances being dangerous for dogs. The dog owner is called in these cases to make the dog vomit and bring up the chocolate.
Charcoal tablets will help. These can be packed into a piece of sausage or cheese and given to the dog, if he still has appetite for it. If not, open the mouth of the animal, put the tablet deep into the throat onto the tongue, shut the mouth and keep the dog’s nose up until he has swallowed the tablet.
If the pet already shows signs of diarrhea, it needs plenty of water to compensate the fluid loss.
The advice of a veterinarian should be sought for further proceedings. The vet needs to know what type of chocolate it was, so show him the rest of the package… if it is still available.