Such an appealing face! Nolene begs very prettily when she thinks that biscuits are around but if we were to give her chocolate cookies we would be poisoning her instead of treating her.
Chocolate is a poison to pets – It can be fatal to dogs–but did you know that different chocolate products carry different dangers? Chocolate contains an ingredient called theobromine (a compound similar to caffeine), but some kinds contain more theobromine than others. Never allow your dog to eat chocolate because all types can make your dog sick if he eats enough.
Because cats are far more fussy about what they eat, they’re typically much less likely to get into trouble. It’s hard to imagine Dimity (shown here) eating anything other than chicken, mince or fish and she checks even that over with great suspicion – free range? From Sainsbury’s? Are you having some for your tea? Most cats seem to have an inbuilt caution when it comes to food. Some don’t care for the taste of sweet foods at all but there are still plenty of fussy felines who love a dish of brown bread crumbs and goats milk with a little sprinkle of sugar on top. However, cats that do eat chocolate can become as sick as a dog would, and may require emergency care.
Unsweetened baking chocolate is the most dangerous of all chocolates, since it contains almost 10 times the amount of theobromine and caffeine as milk chocolate. Just one ounce (1 square) of unsweetened baking chocolate can kill a 10-pound dog (about ¼ ounce for every 2.2 pounds can be a fatal dose). Baker’s chocolate contains 390 milligrams of theobromine per ounce. Semisweet chocolate is the next most serious threat, containing 150 milligrams of theobromine per ounce. One ounce of this type of chocolate can kill a 3-pound dog. Milk chocolate contains 44 milligrams of theobromine per ounce.
Other products that contain theobromine, caffeine, or related compounds include cocoa beans, coffee, cola and tea, so keep your pet away from these as well.
To prevent a poisoning incident, keep chocolate and other products containing theobromine or caffeine out of your pet’s reach. Just remember how much some dogs love sweets; they’ll jump up onto a table to grab biscuits, cakes and other chocolate temptations. I remember one memorable Christmas Day when one of the Miss Whippets managed to get into the sitting room overnight and destroyed the tree to try to get to some chocolate snowballs – there was silver paper, broken decorations, branches, stars and white cotton wool fluff everywhere – thankfully the dog was alright but the fairy never recovered!
And she looks so innocent!
Make sure that children and visitors know never to feed your dog chocolate as a treat. Dogs have these pleading eyes and seize every opportunity to beg at strangers. Some people who are unaware of the real danger and feed chocolate to their dogs, are disbelievers and want to go on doing so. They like indulging their pet, the dog obviously loves the treat and what does it matter? Just because there isn’t obvious illness doesn’t mean it’s alright. It is still toxic but may not show severe symptoms because the dose of theobromine and caffeine in small amounts of milk chocolate is relatively low, especially for larger dogs.
Symptoms of Poisoning
Chocolate poisoning can cause vomiting, diarrohea, nervousness, restlessness, excitement, tremors, seizures, and even coma in dogs. Theobromine triggers the release of epinephrine (adrenaline), which makes a dog’s heart race. This can progress to serious cardiac arrhythmias. Theobromine and caffeine affect your pet’s gastrointestinal system, central nervous system, and cardiovascular system. There is a diuretic effect as well. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, increased heart rate, decreased blood pressure, restlessness, increased urination, muscle tremors, excitability, irritability, and seizures.
What About White Chocolate?
Although “white chocolate” may look and taste like the real thing, it’s not really chocolate at all. It’s made from cocoa butter, and normallyt contains neither caffeine nor theobromine. White chocolate has no cocoa solids from the chocolate liquor but just to be on the safe side – don’t feed it and keep it out of the way anyway.
What to Do
Time is vital in these cases; seek emergency care immediately if your dog has eaten chocolate! Call your vet immediately.
There is no specific antidote for this poisoning, so vets usually recommend inducing vomiting to get rid of the chocolate. It takes about 17.5 hours for half of the toxin in chocolate to work its way through a dog’s system, so you should induce vomiting in the first one or to hours after ingestion if you don’t know how much chocolate your dog ate.
How to Induce Vomiting
In some poisoning cases, your vet will direct you to induce vomiting immediately and will explain how to do this.
Be reassured that, in our experience, most dogs make a complete recovery so long as treatment is given in good time. Chocolate is such a simple everyday ingredient but it can cause havoc with your pet’s health – it’s worrying to learn how many people don’t yet realise the dangers.