You’ve Heard Chocolate is Bad for Dogs. Is it true?
Yes. Chocolate is toxic for your dog. Even though it’s not typically fatal, it can cause serious sickness and it’s always best to avoid letting your dog find your chocolate stash. Depending on your dog’s size and weight, and how much they accidentally consume, chocolate can even be lethal.
The holidays are often the leading culprits for chocolate accidents. From Halloween, to Christmas, to Valentine’s Day, to Easter, there’s a solid six- to seven-month “danger zone” in the average household. It’s important to stay attentive and keep your chocolate out of your dog’s mouth.
Pet MD interviewed Dr. Judy Morgan, DVM, a holistic veterinarian at Clayton and Churchtown Veterinary Associates in New Jersey, to get her take on the perils of our favorite type of candy. She says that it’s theobromine in chocolate that’s toxic to dogs. This varies, chocolate to chocolate, brand to brand, so not all chocolate is equally dangerous. However, other ingredients in chocolate, like sugar for example, can seriously disrupt your dog’s digestive processes.
Types of Chocolate
While it contains the least amount of theobromine, white chocolate is still not pup-approved. It’s the sugar in white chocolate that can be harmful, says Morgan. “[It] could cause vomiting and diarrhea, possibly pancreatitis, but not the heart problems associated with theobromine.”
Perhaps the most common form around, milk chocolate is what we find in most holiday candy stashes. Theobromine, exists in milk chocolate too, but not as much as in dark and baking chocolate. Morgan says, “Large volumes of mild/milk chocolate generally result in vomiting and diarrhea.”
Dark chocolate, along with baking chocolate, present the greatest dangers to dogs. It’s not about volume here; even small bites can be very harmful. Morgan says that consuming dark chocolate can result in fast and irregular heartbeats in your dog. The American Kennel Club (AKC) adds that dark chocolate can induce tremors, seizures, and even death.
Common in many pantries, baking chocolate contains the highest levels of theobromine and can therefore cause the most heart harm. Other complications can occur if dogs consume baking chocolate in the form of baked goods, given other common ingredients. Morgan notes, “If the baked goods also contain raisins or macadamia nuts, it's even more trouble. Added sugar in the baked goods will contribute to vomiting, diarrhea, and possibly pancreatitis.”
Oh No, My Dog Ate Chocolate! Here’s What To Do Next.
If you don’t witness your pup eating chocolate, the symptoms are tougher to recognize. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), symptoms from chocolate consumption may be delayed up to eight hours.
Dr. Morgan recommends a few immediate actions when you suspect that your dog has eaten chocolate. “The first step is really to figure out how much the dog ate. If it only ate a small amount of milk chocolate, veterinary intervention is probably not needed. If the dog ate quite a bit of baking or dark chocolate, definitely contact a veterinarian.”
Remember, your dog’s body weight to the amount of chocolate eaten is an important factor. The AKC reminds us that smaller dogs are more susceptible to harmful side effects of theobromine. In addition, aging dogs and those with heart conditions may react differently.
Keep your chocolate off counters, out of candy dishes, and on shelves out of leaping height! We want your dogs around you, bringing you joy, for as long as possible.
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