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Chocolate Lovers -- Read This!!!

by Geoffrey English

I love chocolate! It’s a weakness of mine. I seem to always have an endless supply within arm’s reach, especially around the holidays. Sometimes my wife teases me that I could not live a day without some kind of chocolate fix. I am not sure whether it’s the instant boost I get from the caffeine or the satisfaction I crave from a ’sweet tooth’ I have had since I was a child.

One thing is for sure though, chocolate is not the treat you want to be slipping your dog. Chocolate is toxic and sometimes even fatal for many pets, and dogs more so than cats, seem to be affected most often by chocolate. This is most likely because they seem to be less discriminating about what they eat than finicky cats. Many dogs will eat as much chocolate as they can find, leaving only the wrapper as evidence of their dangerous snack.

What makes chocolate toxic? Chocolate is made from beans off the cacao tree. These beans contain a toxic compound call Theobromine. While humans can efficiently breakdown and excrete Theobromine, dogs and other animals have a much more difficult time excreting this compound. The most dangerous type of chocolate to a dog is "baking chocolate", which contains almost 10 times the active ingredient, Theobromine, than in milk chocolate. One ounce of cooking chocolate or ten ounces of milk chocolate can be life threatening to a puppy (weighing only 10-12 pounds).

A dog’s reaction to Theobromine can take many forms, ranging from vomiting and diarrhea to falling into a coma and even dying. Because the Central Nervous System and Cardiovascular System are simulated by Theobromine, common signs of chocolate ingestion are excitement, trembling, muscle spasms and seizures. Other possible side effects of Theobromine are frequent urination, excessive thirst, and restlessness. Often, these signs become noticeable within 12 hours of the consumption of chocolate.

If you suspect your dog has eaten enough chocolate to be toxic to the dog, call your veterinarian immediately for advice. The amount of chocolate (level of Theobromine), type of chocolate and the size of your dog all go hand-and-hand. There is no specific antidote for Theobromine toxicity. However, to treat Theobromine toxicity and its ill effects, veterinarians may use intravenous fluids to replace the loss associated with dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea and to flush the Theobromine out of your canine’s system. If your canine has ingested the chocolate within 4 to 6 hours, emetics (medications that induce vomiting) may be recommended. For dogs that show outward signs of seizures and/or muscle tremors, often a veterinarian will recommend anti-seizure, cardiac medications, respectfully.

Size of your DogBaking ChocolateMilk Chocolate
5 pounds1/2 ounce5 ounces
10 pounds1 ounce10 ounces
(more than one large candy bar)
25 pounds2 1/4 ounces25 ounces
(almost a pound and a half of M&M’s)
50 pounds5 ounces50 ounces
(about 3 pounds and a half of M&M’s)
75 pounds7 1/2 ounces75 ounces
(about 10 large candy bars)

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