Thursday, March 7, 2013

Chocolate and Dogs: A Dangerous Combination

Happy Birthday, Topper! Topper is 6 today! Now you might be wondering why I am highlighting Topper, my golden retriever, on a Chocolate Blog, but there's a good reason. I've mentioned this before that chocolate is not good for dogs. I'm careful when I cook and bake with chocolate, because golden retrievers -- well, most dogs -- will eat anything that drops on the floor. I only bake with good dark chocolate and that's exactly what can make Topper sick or worse.

Last week, Hills Pet Company had a very good article on Chocolate and Dogs that I want to share. I'm also reposting a Chocolate and Dogs Q&A about Halloween Candy. It's all good information for Dog Owners (Guardians) who also happen to be Chocoholics. Be safe!

Being that today is Topper's 6th Birthday today, here's a link to a "Puppalicious" Doggie Birthday cake (and more photos of Topper) that I posted last year on Topper's 5th birthday on my Mystery Fanfare blog!

Is Chocolate Bad for Dogs?

Chocolate is poisonous to dogs; however, the hazard of chocolate to your dog depends on the chocolate type, the amount consumed and the dog's size. In large enough amounts, chocolate and cocoa products can kill your dog.

Why not chocolate?
  • The toxic component of chocolate is theobromine. Humans easily metabolize theobromine, but dogs process it much more slowly, allowing it to build up toxic levels in their system.
  • A large dog can consume more chocolate than a small dog before it suffers ill effects.
  • A small amount of chocolate will probably only give your dog an upset stomach with vomiting or diarrhea.
  • With large amounts, theobromine can produce muscle tremors, seizures, an irregular heartbeat, internal bleeding or a heart attack. The onset of theobromine poisoning is usually marked by severe hyperactivity.
A single piece of chocolate should not be a problem. A single piece doesn't contain a large enough theobromine dosage to harm your dog; however, if you have a small dog that has eaten a box of chocolates, you need to go to the veterinarian immediately.

Different chocolate types have different theobromine levels. Cocoa, cooking chocolate and dark chocolate contain the highest levels, while milk chocolate and white chocolate have the lowest. If you’re dealing with any quantity of dark or bitter chocolate, err on the side of caution. The high level of theobromine in dark chocolate means it takes only a very small amount to poison a dog. Less than an ounce of dark chocolate may be enough to poison a 44-pound dog.

The usual treatment for theobromine poisoning is to induce vomiting within two hours of ingestion. If you are worried that your dog may have eaten a large quantity of chocolate, call your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Of course, never consider chocolate as a reward.

And here's another article on Chocolate and Dogs that I posted around Halloween: 

It's a Q &A between Neenda Pellegrini and Dr. Sheppard Thorpe, an emergency veterinarian at Puget Sound Veterinary Referral Center in Tacoma about Halloween and Pets that appeared in the Seattle Times.  Read the entire article HERE.

Pet ingestion of Halloween treats can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, pancreatitis, heart arrhythmias, seizures, liver disease, kidney disease, gastrointestinal obstruction and even death.

Dangerous or even fatal chocolate toxicity is rare because knowledgeable owners usually get their chocolate-eating pets into the clinic within a few hours of ingestion. Once the pet arrives, we do what is called "decontamination" -- vomiting is induced and then activated charcoal is administered.

We also see pets with general vomiting and diarrhea from gastrointestinal upset after they've eaten candy, wrappers and holiday decorations. This can be very serious if the pet develops pancreatitis or if the pet becomes very dehydrated.

A quick and timely response makes the treatment much easier on your pet and your wallet.

Question: Why is chocolate dangerous? Is some chocolate -- dark or bittersweet chocolate -- worse than others, such as milk or white chocolate?

Answer: Chocolate contains an active ingredient called theobromine, which is toxic to pets. Theobromine is a stimulant that pets are more sensitive to than people and can cause hyperactivity, elevated heart rate, twitching and tremoring, vomiting and diarrhea and, worst of all, seizures.

Dark chocolate is more potent, having a higher concentration of theobromine, and, therefore, is more toxic. All chocolate (cakes or brownies, milk chocolate, white chocolate, chocolate syrup, cocoa powder) is considered "rich." Although not as serious as theobromine toxicity, foods with high sugar and fat contents can cause serious stomach and bowel problems. Decontamination and quick treatment is key.

Question: What harm can one little candy bar do?

Answer: It depends on the size of your pet, the presence of any underlying conditions and the amount of chocolate your pet has ingested.

A Hershey's Kiss is safe for a 70-pound Labrador retriever to eat but harmful to a 3-pound Chihuahua.

Another problem with "just one little treat" is that dogs can develop a liking to chocolate and soon may be climbing on the table to help themselves to that whole bowl of Halloween candy.

The power of the dog nose can also help them find that wrapped box of chocolates under the Christmas tree or hidden away for Valentine's Day. I know one Beagle who learned to open the pantry, and he loved to eat the brownie mix.

Question: What should I do if my pet accidentally eats chocolate? What symptoms should I watch for?

Answer: Call your regular veterinarian or local emergency/referral veterinary hospital for recommendations.

It helps to have the candy wrapper with the list of ingredients and percentage of cacao or cocoa in the product.

Monitor your pet for hyperactivity, elevated heart rate, vomiting/diarrhea, tremors, twitches and seizures although preventive treatment long before any of these symptoms is the best approach.

If you have access to the Internet, check out www.veterinarypartner.com and look up chocolate toxicity. The website has an excellent chart comparing the number of ounces of chocolate a pet would need to ingest for toxicity. READ MORE HERE.  

Topper at the Beach


4 comments:

Janet A said...

Happy Birthday, Topper.

yummychunklet said...

Happy Birthday, Topper!

Anonymous said...

Happy belated birthday Topper! came across this looking for some more info on chocolate. good content, thanks for posting! Although i don't bake much there's a lot of things to keep away from your dog. i brew beer so hops is a BIG one i try to avoid any falling on the floor. There's actually some other indoor/outdoor things that i didn't realize we're bad for my dog. check it out - http://bit.ly/10k1hSv

ChocolateAndDogs.com said...

You may have heard people say that chocolate will kill dogs? Does that make sense? If I can eat chocolate, why can't my dog?
As you said Chocolate and dogs is a bad combination.