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Chocolate: What Makes it Harmful to Your Dog

Animal care experts agree that dogs do best if fed a diet that is specifically formulated for their needs. This not only means acknowledging their basic needs as a canine, but also taking into account their breed–how active they are and what, if any, their special needs are. However, the fact is that most individuals consider their dogs to be part of their family, and so wish to share pleasurable things, like food, with their dogs. It is important to note that a dog will not always know what is best for him or what he should avoid, and so may willingly accept dangerous food items from their owner without recognizing the potential consequences. It is therefore extremely important that dog owners know exactly what food items should never be given to their furry companion.

The Dangers of Chocolate

Most individuals have heard that chocolate is dangerous for dogs, but they don’t necessarily understand why. The truth is that the degree to which chocolate poses a threat to a dog depends on the type of chocolate, the amount consumed, the dog’s size, and any pre-existing health conditions the dog may have, but chocolate and cocoa products can be fatal.

The part of chocolate that is toxic for dogs is theobromine. While humans can very easily metabolize theobromine, a dog’s system metabolizes it far more slowly, which allows it to build up to toxic levels in their system. Obviously this means that a dog who has a very small amount of chocolate once in a very great while may experience very little or no ill effects, while a dog who has any amount of chocolate on a regular basis will more likely become very ill very quickly. This also means that a larger dog is able to consume more chocolate than a small dog before experiencing ill effects as a result.

A very small amount of chocolate in the system can give your dog an upset stomach, which may including vomiting or diarrhea. A larger amount of chocolate in the system can cause your dog to experience muscle tremors, seizures, an irregular heartbeat, internal bleeding or a heart attack as a result of theobromine poisoning. Severe hyperactivity is a key sign that a dog may be suffering from theobromine poisoning, and one should get their dog to the emergency veterinarian as rapidly as possible.

A single, small piece of chocolate is not normally a problem. This is because it doesn’t usually contain enough theobromine to build up in the dog’s system and harm them. Furthermore, the exact type of chocolate can affect theobromine levels–whereas cocoa, baking chocolate and dark chocolate have higher theobromine levels, milk and white chocolate have lower theobromine levels. It is best to always err on the side of caution when you are dealing with darker, bitter chocolates, as the higher levels of theobromine means that less than one ounce of dark chocolate can poison a forty-four pound dog. One also needs to consider their dog–if your dog is particularly small or has other health issues, it may be wise to consult a veterinarian. Obviously, you should never purposely feed your dog any amount of chocolate for any reason. Where chocolate consumption has occurred, one should immediately consult their veterinarian for advice, except in cases where theobromine poisoning is obvious and one simply rushes their dog to the vet. Theobromine poisoning is normally treated by inducing vomiting within two hours of chocolate ingestion, so a dog that is suspected of eating a large quantity of chocolate or who is exhibiting any signs of distress should be treated as an emergency case.

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