Why is Chocolate Bad for Dogs?

Last week, my mom and I were supposed to be able to take care of my aunt’s dog, Max. He is a beautiful German Shorthaired Pointer and an important part of their family.

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(Max and my sweet baby cousin)

My mom and I were horrified to come home one night to Max and an empty chocolate wrapper.

Why is chocolate bad for dogs?

10596067_10202585354777487_1969176659_nThere have been many studies about how chocolate is good for people. Why is chocolate so bad for our canine companions? Two chemicals: caffeine and theobromine, mostly theobromine.

Both of these chemicals are methylxanthines, which humans can digest and excrete much more quickly than dogs. According to the Veterinary Specialty Center in Tucson, the half life of theobromine in dogs is 17.5 hours, way longer than people’s 20-40 minutes. Think of how too much caffeine affects you: it’s a central nervous stimulant, a cardio stimulant, it increases your blood pressure, and can cause nausea and vomiting. The methylxanthines make dogs suffer these symptoms in an extreme way when they eat chocolate. They get nervous, tremble, throw up, have diarrhea, drink and pee a lot, and can even have seizures (because of the over-stimulation of the central nervous system-like if you drank fifteen red bulls in twenty minutes). Death is rare, but it is usually because of of heart rhythm abnormalities, the same thing that kills people when they combine stimulants.

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It takes a fair amount of chocolate to kill a dog, and the darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains. A lethal dose is 100-200 milligrams of theobromine per kilogram of dog. Dry cocoa powder contains 800 milligrams of theobromine per ounce, so it doesn’t take a lot of cocoa powder to kill a dog. White chocolate doesn’t contain enough theobromine to hurt your dog. It does have enough sugar and fat to cause pancreatitis a couple days later, though, so still get your dog checked with a vet.

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Dogs aren’t the only animals that have such a strong reaction to chocolate. Cats are even more sensitive, but because they can’t taste sweet things like dogs can, they are much less likely to eat it.

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The toxicity of chocolate to dogs is not all bad. Scientists in Nebraska are using it to ward off coyotes from valuable livestock.

So was Max all right?

Max is a big dog (so he had more kilograms of wiggle room) and was fine after being gassy for a few hours. Hopefully he learned his lesson and will avoid methylxanthines in the future.

Stay happy and healthy,

Ellen

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