by Audrey Harvey
In my opinion, chocolate is one of the five food groups. I am a chocoholic, and there is always some chocolate hidden away in my home for emergencies.
Althuogh we all enjoy sharing life’s little luxuries with our dogs, chocolate is one thing that you should definitely not give them. It can make them quite sick, and if they eat enough, it can be fatal.
Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine which is found in cocoa. It is theobromine which is poisonous to dogs, even in small doses. Incidentally, caffeine has a similar chemical structure to theobromine and can also make dogs ill. Because dogs don’t seem to enjoy the taste of coffee, caffeine poisoning isn’t nearly as common as chocolate poisoning.
How much chocolate will make your dog sick? That depends on two things – your dog’s body weight and whether he eats dark, milk or white chocolate.
Let’s do some number crunching. The lethal dose of theobromine is 100 to 150 mg per kilo bodyweight. We’ll use a 10kg dog as an example, that’s a nice round figure to work with. Breeds of dogs that reach 10kg, or 22lb as adults include Beagles, American Cocker Spaniels and Standard Fox Terriers. Using these figures, they would need to eat 1000 to 1500 mg of theobromine to become poisoned.
Cooking chocolate contains the most theobromine, 140mg per gram. Our 22lb dog would only need to eat 10g of this type of chocolate before he became seriously ill. That’s not much at all!
Milk chocolate contains15mg of theobromine per gram, so it would take 100g of this chocolate to affect your dog. White chocolate is least dangerous, as there is very little theobromine in it.
If, in spite of your best efforts at keeping your treats all for yourself, your dog eats enough chocolate to poison himself, he can start to show symptoms within half an hour. You can expect to see vomiting and diarrhea, and he will appear twitchy, hyperactive and excited. Depending on dose, he may then start to stagger and develop seizures. Finally he will lapse into a coma, and he may die.
As you can see, chocolate poisoning in dogs is an emergency, and it’s important that you contact your veterinarian as soon as you realize your dog has eaten some of your chocolate stash. Treatment is aimed at preventing him absorbing more theobromine, and controlling any symptoms he is showing.
Your vet can give your dog medication to make him vomit up any chocolate that remains in his stomach. Activated charcoal by mouth will absorb any theobromine that’s travelling along his gastro-intestinal tract, and sedatives or anesthesia will control twitching muscles and seizures.
As an alternative to chocolate, why not give your dog a bone, some dried liver treats or even carob – it contains no theobromine and is quite safe for dogs.
There are so many safe treats that are available for your dog, there is no reason to give him something that may kill him, no matter how good it tastes. That suits me just fine, because I don’t have to feel guilty when I keep my chocolate all for myself!
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