Everyone loves a treat. And more often than not, a treat will include chocolate in some form or another. Chocolate is a luxury that we discover as children and we continue to enjoy throughout our lives. And as any dog owner will attest, man’s best friend loves a treat too.
Whether it is a reward as part of a training regime or you just want to spoil your pet, you can be sure that it will be cheerfully accepted. But while many dog owners treat their pet like another member of the family, unfortunately chocolate is one human treat that shouldn’t be shared with them. But why is this? Brace yourselves, here comes the scientific bit… Chocolate contains Theobromine, a chemical compound found in the cacao plant, which produces the seeds used to make chocolate. It is not present in sufficient amounts to cause any harm to humans (unless a significant quantity of chocolate is consumed) but unfortunately this is not the case for our canine friends. Domestic animals such as dogs metabolize Theobromine much more slowly than humans, which means it takes longer for their bodies to break it down. It attacks a dog’s central nervous system and heart muscle, leading to Theobromine poisoning which can be fatal for dogs.
The amounts of chocolate differ depending on the size of dog but as little as eight or nine ounces of chocolate can cause distress. Initial symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhoea and restlessness with more serious cases involving seizures, respiratory problems and cardiac problems and at worst, death. The bigger the dog, the greater amount of chocolate it takes to induce symptoms which can last for up to three days. The strength of the symptoms also depends on the type of chocolate ingested. White chocolate contains the least amount of Theobromine while dark chocolate and baking chocolate contain the highest amount.
Fortunately, Theobromine poisoning can be treated by a vet, although obviously it is important to get your dog to the surgery as soon as possible. Medical procedures can include inducing vomiting (as long as the pet arrives within two hours of ingesting the chocolate) as well as the administration of various medications to treat seizures and heart conditions and other symptoms.
However all is not lost if your dog develops a taste for chocolate as there are a wide range of imitation chocolate products on the market for dogs. They are not easy to come by but can be found online. So to sum up, it is probably safest to avoid feeding your dog chocolate at all. At least you now know that if your pooch does accidentally eat a bit by mistake, it won’t necessarily be life threatening. However if you are in doubt, do not take any risks and make sure you bring your pet to the local veterinary surgery. Just like with any member of the family, better safe than sorry.