Friday, 12 February 2021

Ask a veterinarian: Everything you need to know about chocolate toxicity & dogs

Ask a vet: Why is chocolate poisonous to dogs? What do I do if my dog eats chocolate? 

Ask a vet: Why is chocolate poisonous to dogs? What do I do if my dog eats chocolate?


Chocolate is almost as sweet as my dog Hazel. That's right, I said almost. But every now and then I get a chocolate craving I can't ignore. I've always been extra careful not to let my dog have even a crumb of cocoa goodness. But why? We know not to give our dogs chocolate, but what is it about the sweet substance that is so dangerous for dogs? I asked Dr. Carlie Paquette, a veterinarian at Pembroke Animal Hospital, to give me the facts about chocolate toxicity and dogs. 


The question on the tip of my tongue was: why? Why can't dogs eat chocolate? Why is chocolate poisonous to dogs? It all comes down to two things: theobromine and caffeine.


"Chocolate contains methylxanthines, specifically theobromine and caffeine, which can both be toxic to dogs if enough is ingested," said Dr. Paquette. "Both of these can cause similar effects in dogs, however, the effects of the theobromine last much longer."

Ask a veterinarian: Everything you need to know about chocolate toxicity & dogs


Pet owners are also concerned with what happens to their dog when it ingests chocolate? What happens to the body? What symptoms are present? Sometimes dogs get into chocolate when no one is home, so knowing the symptoms is important. 


"When small amounts are ingested we can see vomiting or diarrhea. With very small amounts we may see no symptoms," Dr. Paquette explained. "With larger amounts, we can see seizures, coma, tachycardia which can lead to cardiac arrhythmias and even death."


The effects of chocolate toxicity can be devastating for a dog. But are certain types of chocolate more toxic, or are they all made equal? Turns out there is a difference when it comes to chocolate and dogs.


"Bakers chocolate is the most toxic," Dr. Paquette said. She explained that the amount of chocolate liquor is proportional to how toxic the chocolate is. "The more chocolate liquor, the more theobromine, and the more toxic."

Ask a veterinarian: Everything you need to know about chocolate toxicity & dogs


The next most toxic is semi-sweet chocolate, then dark chocolate, then milk chocolate, and finally white chocolate. This means people baking with chocolate need to be especially careful to keep it far out of reach from the dog. If the worst happens and your dog eats chocolate then acting fast can provide the best outcome. If your dog ingests chocolate what do you do? 


"If enough theobromine is ingested and no intervention is made a dog can die," Dr. Paquette said. " 

       
 
If your dog ingested chocolate of any kind you should contact your veterinarian and if possible tell them what type of chocolate, how much and when your dog ingested the chocolate." 


If your dog ingests anything that is potentially toxic here is a great tip that your veterinarian will thank you for. Keep the packaging, if possible. It has information about the ingredients and the guaranteed analysis. This piece of information can be life-saving. Of course, some dogs eat the packaging too!

Ask a veterinarian: Everything you need to know about chocolate toxicity & dogs


"Depending on the size of your pet and the above information there may be no intervention needed. It may be recommended for your pet to be brought in to induce vomiting, or 24-hour monitoring may be needed," said Dr. Paquette.


What about our feline friends? A cat may be less likely to get into chocolate, but what if a cat eats chocolate. Is chocolate toxic to cats too?


"The toxic dose of theobromine is thought to be about the same as it is for dogs, however, cats don’t seem to have a 'sweet tooth' like dogs do, so they rarely ingest chocolate," Dr. Paquette said.


Ask a veterinarian: Everything you need to know about chocolate toxicity & cats



There are many products available that contain 'chocolate flavour' meaning that it contains a smaller amount of cocoa or real chocolate. Like ice cream, for example. Is chocolate ice cream toxic to dogs?


"Chocolate flavoured products have the least amount of theobromine. So these are the safest if ingested," said Dr. Paquette. If too many chocolate flavoured sweets are ingested your dog may get an upset stomach, similar to humans who overindulge their sweet tooth, but it does not mean the sweet treat will have deadly effects.


This Valentine's Day Dr. Paquette has some tips. Keep your chocolate high up and far away from wandering noses. Put it in a cupboard that is high off the floor in a container with a tight lid. Or eat it all right away! If you throw any chocolate in the trash make sure the lid is secure. If your dog eats chocolate call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline right away and locate the product packaging. The best way we can show our pets love is to keep them healthy!


Ask a veterinarian: Everything you need to know about chocolate toxicity & dogs



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1 comment:

  1. I now know much more about chocolate and how it can harm a pet. Thank you

    ReplyDelete