More than 78 million dogs are owned in the United States. Canine companions become part of the family, and its easy to forget that some human treats may be toxic to a dog. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) lists more than a dozen foods and drinks that are toxic to animals. Chocolate is on the list and is never safe to give to your dog.
Dangerous chocolate ingredients. Chocolate as well as coffee, tea and caffeinated sodas contain the methylxanthine alkaloids theobromine and caffeine. These types of compounds can act as a stimulant and diuretic. Individually or combined, theobromine and caffeine can poison a dog. Chocolate typically contains both.
Dogs and chocolate. According to the Michigan Veterinary Specialists, chocolate poisoning is common in dogs because they have a habit of rapidly consuming foods, “particularly puppies and young dogs as they may be more likely to ingest large amounts of unusual foods.” Offering chocolate to your dog as a treat is dangerous and can make the dog very ill. Depending on the type and amount of chocolate consumed, the dog may die.
Symptoms of chocolate poisoning. The ASPCA reports that when dogs or other pets ingest methylxanthines, the animal may suffer “vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death.” Chocolate poisoning can affect any breed, size or age of dog.
Types of chocolate. Different types of chocolate contain different amounts of the methylxanthines. Baking chocolate has more methylxanthine alkaloids than any other type of chocolate, so you never want to leave it on the counter or anywhere you dog may be able to snag a nibble. Dark chocolate has a higher concentration of methylxanthines than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest concentrations but is still not a safe treat to give your dog. Not every commercial chocolate candy has the same level of caffeine concentrations, but none should be offered as a dog's treat.
Treatment for chocolate poisoning. If your dog eats any amount of chocolate, contact your veterinarian. He or she will determine the right course of treatment for your dog. Treatment will vary depending on the amount of chocolate eaten, type of chocolate, size and age of dog, and the symptoms your dog is suffering after eating the chocolate. Even if your dog eats a small piece of chocolate, play it safe and call your veterinarian.
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