Chocolate is a trick, not a treat, for dogs

Halloween is here and with it comes the start of the candy-filled holiday season. For the next several months there will be plenty of temptation and opportunities to succumb to giving chocolate to our pets. 

I am sure you have heard not to give pets chocolate, but do you really know why? As a baker of dog treats for my dogs and owner of a dog bakery, I had to learn the facts to educate my customers on the evils of chocolate and wonders of carob. So here is the truth about chocolate.

Chocolate comes from roasted seeds called Theobroma cacao – which contain theobromine and caffeine, 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 150 mg of theobromine per oz. Baking chocolate contains 390 mg of theobromine per oz. A two-ounce square of baking 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.  

If your dog ingests chocolate, look for the following symptoms: very excitable, increased heart rate, restlessness, increased urination, vomiting  diarrhea, seizures, muscle tremors and cardiac failure. As with humans, certain dogs are more prone to reactions from caffeine and theobromine. Some people are fine after a couple of cups of coffee, others have one cup and they are wired.

If chocolate finds its way into your dog’s tummy, first determine which kind of chocolate it is, and what strength the cacao/cocoa is. The fine chocolate bars available now often list the cacao percentage right on the label. Otherwise, look to the ingredients listed on the label: the closer an ingredient is to the top of the list, the more there is in the product. A few M&M’s would not necessarily hurt your pet, but a 72 percent cacao Godiva bar is a lot more potent.

If you determine a good amount of milk chocolate or a small amount of really dark chocolate has been ingested, first call your vet. They will likely tell you to induce vomiting and will often want to run some blood work and possibly an ECG to determine the toxicity levels. 

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 since it is made from cocoa beans.

When taking your dog to a park or friend’s house, always be very alert as to what your dog might be eating while there. 

Let’s keep our pets safe and let them enjoy a wonderful holiday season by feeding them carob instead, which is available at most health food stores and local dog boutiques and bakeries. Carob is safe for dogs since it does not contain theobromine or caffeine.

There is no cure so prevention is key! Better to be safe than sorry.

Read More on Pet Care
Volume 6, Issue 22, Posted 9:40 AM, 10.28.2014