Protect Your Canine: Why Is Chocolate Bad for Dogs?

Posted by Pekin Insurance on Oct 30, 2017

Chocolate has protein, calcium, magnesium, iron, and other nutrients a dog needs, so why is chocolate bad for dogs?


Now and then you meet someone who doesn't like chocolate. They prefer a hot tea over hot chocolate in the winter and are happier with plain ice cream than an ice cream sundae with chocolate sauce. Dogs are another story. There may not be a dog on this planet who doesn't like chocolate. That's a problem, though.

You may already know that dogs shouldn't have chocolate, but why is chocolate bad for dogs? Healthline points out that an average dark chocolate bar contains potassium, 11 grams of fiber, and significant amounts of manganese, iron, and copper—all nutrients your dog needs in a balanced diet.  Dark chocolate also contains antioxidants. Like humans, dogs need antioxidants in their diets to help improve cellular health. For some dogs (and cats) antioxidants can decrease allergy symptoms and support a healthy coat. 

These all seem like benefits, so why is chocolate bad for dogs? Can't they have just a little bit?


Why Is Chocolate Bad for Dogs?

According to a video posted by the American Chemical Society, there is one molecule in chocolate that can become deadly for dogs if they eat too much: theobromine. Theobromine is similar to caffeine in that it increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the brain in humans. Dogs, however, can't process theobromine.

When dogs get chocolate poisoning, "the most common clinical signs are vomiting and diarrhea, increased thirst, panting or restlessness, excessive urination, and a racing heart rate," according to Pet Poison Hotline's Associate Director of Veterinary Services, Ahna Brutlag, DVM, MS, DABT, DABVT.  More severe symptoms may include muscle tremors, seizures, and heart failure. It's important to point out, however, that symptoms could take 6 to 12 hours to present themselves. So if you think or know your dog has eaten chocolate, treat them right away.

How Much Chocolate Will Make Your Dog Sick?

Chocolates don't all contain the same concentration of theobromine. Baker's chocolate and chocolate powder contain the most: baker's chocolate has up to 450 milligrams of theobromine per ounce of chocolate. Dry cocoa powder could have as much as 737 milligrams of theobromine per ounce. 

By contrast, milk chocolate has between 44 and 60 milligrams of theobromine per ounce of chocolate. Does that mean milk chocolate is okay for your dog? No.

According to the Pet MD toxicity meter, a 12-pound dog who eats a king-sized Hershey bar may experience vomiting, stomach upset, and hypertension. The same amount of dark chocolate could be fatal. For a 45-pound dog, 3 ounces of baker's chocolate is enough to cause an elevated heart rate, collapse, and death. 



What to Do If Your Dog Eats Chocolate

Your first action with any medical questions about your dog is to contact your vet. They are much better equipped to answer your questions and give you directions in case of an emergency.  If your vet isn't available, you can call the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661. 

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, your vet may treat your dog with IV fluids, induced vomiting, and activated charcoal to absorb the poison before it gets into your dog's bloodstream. The good news is that dogs who get treated quickly have an excellent survival rate.



Keeping Your Dog Away From Chocolate

Any dog owner knows that no matter how hard you try to keep certain foods and items away from them, pets will get into things from time to time. There are, however, a lot of steps you can take to keep your dog and your chocolate away from each other.
  • Place all chocolate candy (including candy bars, chocolate chips, and hot chocolate mix) up high in a closed cupboard.
  • If you or a guest spills anything with chocolate (like cake or chocolate milk), clean it up right away.
  • Remember that chocolate can hide in other foods. Chocolate cake and brownies may be obvious, but chocolate can also come in trail mix, snack bars, and some sauces like mole, for instance. 


While pet insurance won't keep your dog away from chocolate, it can help you cover the expense of treating your dog from chocolate poisoning and many other medical emergencies. Call your local Pekin Insurance agent today to learn more.




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