Chocolate and Dogs: A Potentially Dangerous Combination

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Today is National Chocolate Day and while it’s been said that chocolate can fix almost any emotional situation … the same cannot be said for our beloved K9 companions.

Chocolate and dogs do not mix and can potentially create a dangerous, even lethal, combination. According to Pets.WebMd.com, chocolate toxicity is “one of the common causes of dog poisoning.”

But why is one of our favorite treats so toxic to our dogs? Primarily because of the high amounts of fat and and the caffeine-like stimulants generally known as methylxanthines (in particular, theobromine). In an irony of nature, these stimulants actually offer potential health benefits to humans (the stimulation of our central nervous system and even cardiovascular and metabolic effects). (Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine)

But when it comes to our dogs, these stimulants represent toxic – and potentially dangerous – compounds especially to their heart and nervous systems.

Generally speaking, the darker the chocolate, the higher the risk of methylxanthine poisoning in a dog. White chocolate has the lowest levels and baking chocolate contains the highest; milk chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate  and hot chocolate fall between these two extremes.

Symptoms of methylxanthine poisoning range from vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, tremors, seizures and abnormal heart rhythm. If left untreated or if the amount ingested was in large and significant amounts, death can occur.

To put things into perspective here, consider a small, 10-pound dog. As little as 4 ounces of milk chocolate — or only 0.5 oz of baking chocolate — can cause serious, life-threatening consequences!

Even if methylxanthine poisoning were not enough of a concern, the high fat content of lighter chocolates could lead to debilitating dog-715480_640vomiting and diarrhea and even life-threatening pancreatitis, an inflammatory condition of the pancreas.

So go ahead and enjoy National Chocolate Day! But keep it out of sight (avoid those puppy eyes!), reach – and especially nose range – of your four-legged companion to keep them safe and healthy.

(Additional Sources: ASPCA.org and Doctors Foster and Smith’s PetEducation.com and Vet.Purdue.edu)

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