By Pam Teel
It’s that time of the year again when the gifts of chocolate from Christmas and New Year’s are piling up, and the thought of hiding those chocolate delights from the restless puppies are the furthest thing from your mind. Dogs have a wonderful sense of smell, and they are by nature mischievous. They don’t like to stop eating unless they are finished, making them more susceptible to chocolate poisoning. Cats on the other hand are more finicky.
A lot of dog owners already know that chocolate is bad for their animals but do you actually know why? Chocolate contains two compounds, caffeine and theobromine. Both can cause life threatening heart and breathing problems. Signs of toxicity usually can appear from 6 to 12 hours after consumption. Signs might include tremors, seizures, hyperactivity, rapid breathing, increased urination, collapse and death. Chocolate, being high in fat can also cause gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea and vomiting.
Whether you need to rush your pet to the hospital depends on what kind of chocolate they ate and their body weight. White chocolate contains a trace of the toxic compounds and is not nearly as toxic to dogs. Theobromine can be found in white chocolate; however the amount is so low your dog would have to eat a tremendous amount of white chocolate in order to have any symptoms. It’s important to note that white chocolate is not so harmless, though. You shouldn’t be feeding your dog candy or sweets at all. The high fat content puts your dog at risk for pancreatitis. It is also high in sugar, which can lead to health problems including diabetes, weight gain, urinary tract infections, and more. In short, don’t share any type of chocolate with your dog. For a sweet treat that’s safe for pups to eat, give them some apple slices instead.
Milk chocolate has moderate levels and dark chocolate and bittersweet chocolate have the most toxic compounds. Larger dogs’ can tolerate more chocolate than smaller ones before it becomes a concern. Still you should not feed your pets any chocolate, not even as a treat or a reward. Humans can easily metabolize theobromine but a dog processes it much slower allowing it to build up to toxic levels.
Here is a guide to how much a dog can eat without dying:
- White chocolate- 200 ounces per pound of the body weight of the dog.
- Milk chocolate- It will take 1 ounce per pound of body weight of your dog to deadly poison it. 1 pound of milk chocolate is deadly enough for a ten-pound dog.
- Sweet cacao powder itself is more dangerous. Just 0.3 ounces per pound body weight can be deadly. 1/3 pound can be poisonous for a 20-pound dog and 1/6 pound for a 10-pound dog.
- Baking chocolate- 1 ounce is lethal per pound of the dogs’ body weight. 2 ounces is enough for the poisoning of a 20-pound dog and 1 ounce in a 10-pound dog.
- Don’t give your dog pudding either. It contains theobromine!
- Remember to put all chocolate up somewhere where the dog can’t get to it. If your dog does get into the chocolate, the first step would be to determine the amount he actually ate. The smaller the dog the more harm after ingesting. If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t get to a vet or call for advice, it’s wise to try to induce vomiting at home by using hydrogen peroxide, (3%), 1 or 2 teaspoons to the dogs mouth every 15 minutes till vomiting occurs. You can mix vanilla ice cream or water with it to make it more palatable. (Usually two tries is enough and you shouldn’t go beyond that.) 2 or 3 teaspoons of Ipecac syrup can also be used but given only once.After vomiting, you can give your dog activated charcoal mixed with water. One tsp. for dogs under 25 pounds and 2 tsp. for dogs over 25 pounds. Toxiban brands activated charcoal is best known in the market for this type of emergency. For positive results treatment should be given within 4 to 6 hours after ingestion. If you have a dog that tends to eat anything in sight it might be best to have these items readily available. Best bet is to call the vet first!
- Other foods that are dangerous to cats and dogs are:Artificial sweeteners xylitol- it causes a sudden release of insulin in the body that leads to low blood sugar. It can also cause liver damage. Check labels.Chocolate, caffeine coffee- as discussed.Grapes, raisins can cause sudden kidney failure. It’s not known what the tox- ic agent is in the fruit but clinical signs can occur within 24 hours of ingestion.Garlic and onions- they contain chemicals that damage red blood cells in both animals’. Fresh cooked or powdered garlic and onion are commonly used in baby food. Sometimes it given to dogs who are sick. Make sure you check labels.Avocados’ tree leaves, pits, fruit, and plant bark are likely all toxic.Macadamia nuts- they are common in candies and chocolate. Clinical signs in dogs includes depression, weakness, vomiting, tremors, joint pain, pale gums, Signs occur within 12 hours after eating.If you love your pets- hide the chocolate. Put it up out of reach, especially for those dogs who tend to get into everything. They are more likely to go after it!