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Original Post by: Danny Phillips

Some people believe that giving a dog just a little chocolate won’t hurt them. Who can resist those puppy-dog eyes just begging for a treat? How bad can giving in to them really be? One word. Bad. As pet owners, we should know better that chocolate and dogs don’t mix. Here is the plain truth on dogs and chocolate.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT CHOCOLATE THAT IS BAD FOR DOGS?

Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, a naturally occurring stimulant, which happens to be toxic for dogs. The theobromine acts as a poison to your dog. It increases urination and affects the central nervous system, as well as affects the heart muscle. The amount of theobromine in the chocolate varies with the type of chocolate. Cocoa beans contains the most amount of theobromine, followed by cocoa powder, plain baking chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, chocolate drink mixes, and having the least amount is white chocolate.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOUR DOG EATS CHOCOLATE?

Symptoms that your dog has eaten a toxic dose of chocolate can be as follows: Within the first few hours the dog may suffer vomiting, diarrhea or hyperactivity. After a time and there is an increased amount of absorption of the toxic substance, the dog’s heart rate can increase which can cause arrhythmia, restlessness, hyperactivity, muscle twitching, increased urination or excessive panting. Hyperthermia, muscle tremors and seizures can occur and eventually the dog can fall into a coma. Death may even occur. The symptoms can occur within only a few hours of digesting the chocolate or can take up to 36 hours to manifest.

HOW MUCH CHOCOLATE IS BAD FOR YOUR DOG?

Although you should never feed your dog chocolate at all, the amount of chocolate that it takes to poison your dog depends on the type of chocolate eaten and the dog’s weight. The health and age of your dog will also play a role in the dog’s reaction to chocolate. An aged dog in poor physical shape may react differently from a young healthy dog of the same weight.

The toxic dose of theobromine for dogs is 100-200 mg/kg (1 kilogram = 2.2 lbs.). This means that a 50 lb. dog would need to consume 9 oz. of milk chocolate to reach that level of theobromine. As stated previously though, this depends on the dog. Some dogs may see no ill effects at this level while others may have serious problems.

This means that you don’t have to panic if your dog steals the odd chocolate chip that falls on the floor. Chances are he won’t have any ill effects, but giving your dog chocolate is not a good habit to get into. It may even decrease his life span.

WHAT CAN YOU DO FOR YOUR DOG WHO HAS EATEN CHOCOLATE?

If you suspect that your dog has eaten a toxic amount of chocolate (see the symptoms related to that above), then call your veterinarian for advice. Take a sample of the dog’s vomit to the clinic as well for the vet to examine and confirm the identification of the toxic substance. There is no specific treatment for theobromine toxicity, but medical treatments tend to be supportive and may include IV fluids (for dehydration for vomiting, diarrhea and increased urination-and to try to flush the theobromine out of the dog’s system), emetics (medication to induce vomiting), activated charcoal, anti-seizure medications, or cardiac medications.

The prognosis for chocolate poisoning is good if the chocolate is removed from the dog’s system within 2-4 hours of ingestion. Prognosis in animals with advanced signs (seizures and serious heart dysfunction) is guarded.

WHY CAN HUMANS CONSUME CHOCOLATE AND NOT DOGS?

We as humans can break down and excrete the theobromine in chocolate more easily than dogs.

According to veterinarians, chocolate ingestions are more common around certain holidays.  as Halloween, Easter, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. Dogs naturally tend to have a “sweet tooth” and can sniff out these tasty items. As a pet owner, keep your chocolate goodies safely away from your dog. Use healthy dog treats to reward your pet instead. Try Healthy Dogma’s Groovy Granola Bars as a safer sweet option for your pet. Avoid giving your dog chocolate at all costs and avoid the problems that the theobromine in chocolate can cause.

For more healthy dog tips, continue to read our blog posts, or visit the Healthy Dogma Facebook page to stay up to date.

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