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Is Chocolate Really Dangerous to Dogs?

Heard it Said, but is it True?

 

On a recent episode of Army Wives, one of the character’s dogs had to be rushed to the vet because he ate an entire bag of chocolate chips. That reminded me of how I’ve always heard that dogs can’t eat chocolate, because it will kill them. I had never actually considered whether it was true or not, simply keeping chocolate away from my dogs. Now that I’m a writer, I decided I should verify the information, knowing how much misinformation there is on the web today. So instead of turning to the web to verify, I decided to pick up the phone and call my local vet’s office.

What the vet tech told me was this: Yes, chocolate is dangerous to dogs!

In fact, she went on to inform me that some chocolate is worse for dogs than other chocolate, and that different dogs actually have different reactions to chocolate. The smaller the dog is, the more dangerous chocolate is to the dog, of course, and the more they eat, the worse it is.

Safest Chocolate for Dogs – White and or Milk Chocolate

Milk chocolate is the safest of all chocolates for dogs, and this is good news, because milk chocolate is the most common type of chocolate people buy and have around their homes. If your large dog (30 pounds, plus) eats a piece of a chocolate bar, or even an entire milk chocolate bar, he or she will probably be fine, with only a little diarrhea or stomach upset to deal with. However, don’t ever assume this will be the case. It’s always best, especially when in doubt, to contact your vet.

Most Dangerous Chocolate for Dogs – Baker’s Chocolate

Baker’s chocolate is the most dangerous chocolate for dogs, and if you have a small dog who eats even a small bite of baker’s chocolate, you should take your dog to the vet immediately. Larger dogs who eat small bites should result in your calling the vet immediately.

Why Is Chocolate Dangerous for Dogs?

Chocolate, according to the vet tech, contains two things that are harmful to dogs: theobromine and caffeine. The combination of these two things is even more dangerous, since caffeine temporarily speeds up metabolism, so the chocolate gets spread through the system faster.

Theobromine can be deadly to dogs, absolutely fatal, but even if it’s not, it can cause gastrointestinal upset, seizure problems, dehydration, and more. How to determine how much chocolate is too much for dogs is problematic, since it will differ for every dog, based on what type of chocolate the dog ate, the weight and age and breed of the dog, and the overall health of the dog.

Small dogs, especially those under 15 pounds, should be taken to the vet for even a bite of chocolate. Larger dogs may not require emergency medical treatment if they only get a bite, but it’s still a good idea to call the vet to verify this.

Generally speaking, the amount and type of chocolate ingested by the dog compared to the dog’s weight is used to determine if drastic measures should be taken. White chocolate contains the least amount of theobromine, with milk chocolate a second. Baker’s chocolate, dark chocolate bittersweet chocolate and other more pure cacao containing chocolate not mixed with other things to sweeten or thin the chocolate are the worst.

Symptoms Associated with Too Much Chocolate Ingested

While you should take your dog to the vet if you think he or she has consumed chocolate, there are specific symptoms the vet tech said you should look for to see if chocolate is poisoning your dog. These include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach and gastrointestinal upset
  • Seizure or convulsions
  • Lethargy, whining, whimpering

Other Dangerous Chocolate Items

Cacao beans are dangerous to dogs, so be sure not to have any around the house. There are other things you should watch out for too, such as hot chocolate. Dogs can tear through a package of this stuff, and it has chocolate in it. One website I found indicated that a dog died from chewing on mulch that was made with cacao, as well, and that’s one I never would have expected or thought about.

If your dog chews, be sure to check out the things he chews and be sure there’s nothing dangerous in them, including mulch around your tree beds, bedding for other animals (what hurts a dog might not hurt a rabbit), or pieces of wood or twigs. Better safe than a sick or dead furry four legged member of your family.

Again, when in doubt, please contact your veterinarian and have him or her check out your dog. Never take a chance with the life of your furry friend.

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