The 'unsweet' truth about dogs and chocolate

It is almost Halloween and the start of the candy-filled holiday season! I confess, growing up with my miniature poodle Muffin, I gave her chocolate daily! That was her favorite dog treat, specifically M&M’s. One glance at those soulful eyes and the child in me melted. I did not want a candy nearly as bad as she did! We did not know the dangers of chocolate for dogs back then.  

As the owner of a dog bakery/boutique in Westlake, I had to learn the facts to educate my customers on the evils of chocolate and wonders of carob. So here are the “unsweet” facts about chocolate:

Chocolate comes from roasted seeds called Theobroma cacao – which contain theobromine and caffeine, both poisonous to most animals! What matters most are the type and amount of chocolate consumed.

Milk chocolate contains 44 milligrams of theobromine per ounce. Semisweet chocolate contains 150mg of theobromine per ounce. Baker's chocolate contains 390 mg of theobromine per ounce.

For example, two ounces of Baker's chocolate causes severe toxicity in a 20-pound dog, whereas two ounces of milk chocolate causes gastric distress but is not likely to be fatal to the same dog.  

However, if your dog ingests chocolate, look for the following symptoms: very excited, increased heart rate, restlessness, increased urination, vomiting and diarrhea. Serious symptoms include seizures, muscle tremors and cardiac failure.

First things first: call your vet, who will likely tell you to induce vomiting. Most times they will want to run some blood work and possibly an ECG to determine the toxicity levels. There is no antidote so prevention is the key!

Additional interesting facts to consider: White chocolate is fine since it contains no real chocolate (but has the trans-fats instead). Cocoa bean mulch for your yard is also poisonous to dogs since it is made from cocoa beans! Some places are using chocolate to help control coyotes since it is toxic to them, too.

Lori Aldrich

I am the owner of an upscale dog bakery/boutique in Promenade at Crocker Park and the last member of one of Bay Village and part of Westlake's also founding families.

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Volume 4, Issue 20, Posted 10:21 AM, 10.02.2012