Just about everyone loves chocolate. It is a component in many delectable and decadent desserts, and it could also be added in a few savory dishes. Life with chocolate is definitely much sweeter. But what many pet owners don’t understand is – why is chocolate toxic to dogs?

If you are a pet owner, it is natural that you would want to share the things that you find pleasurable with your loyal canine friend; and this includes indulging in chocolate. However, before you give your pet a chocolate bar or maybe a dessert that’s primarily made of such substance, you must stop yourself. There are two components in chocolate that can lead to medical problems or even the death of your beloved pet, and these are caffeine and theobromine, which are generally found in cacao seeds. Both elements are not only poisonous to dogs but to cats as well.

Are All Chocolates Toxic to Dogs?

There are different kinds of chocolates, and each type will affect your animal differently. The reason for this is that the concentration of caffeine and theobromine vary depending on how a certain type of chocolate is prepared. For instance, milk chocolate has the least concentration of the two toxic elements, which means that it will require a dog to eat more of the same in order to get poisoned. As for semi-sweet, dark and baking chocolate, these are more concentrated. So, a dog can experience adverse reactions even when it only ate a small amount of such types. In animals, death by chocolate happens when there is respiratory failure or heart irregularities.

Since chocolate is not toxic in small doses, some people give their pets milk chocolate as treats. What could one piece of M&M do to your bulky St. Bernard, right? The problem here is that if you allow your pet to eat chocolate, it will develop a liking to it. Another issue here is that dogs cannot properly discern if they are eating milk chocolate or the more concentrated dark or baking chocolate. So, the danger here is that something bad will likely happen to your pet especially if it finds a bag of chocolate and gorges on the sweets.

Signs of Chocolate Toxicity

There are several signs that indicate that your dog is experiencing chocolate poisoning. You’ll observe the following – nausea and vomiting; increased breathing or heart rate; increased temperature; and low blood pressure. More alarming reactions are seizures, weakness, coma, and cardiac arrest.

Diagnosis and Treatment

When you see a large, empty and decimated bag of dark chocolate on the floor, check your dog as soon as possible. If it is exhibiting signs of toxicity, bring your pet to the vet as soon as possible. The vet will perform a thorough physical check-up together with other tests, including blood and urine examinations. Electrolyte levels are also checked.

Oftentimes, chocolate toxicity is treated in the same manner as caffeine overdose. In order to remove some of the poison from the animal’s stomach, a gastric lavage can be performed or vomiting can be induced. Activated charcoal can also be introduced into the system as this absorbs the poison too. Treatment will be based on the symptoms. For example, the dog can be given meds to reduce nervous system excitation if it is experiencing palpitations or rapid heart rate. Support is provided to the respiratory and cardiovascular system if needed.

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Claire Miller is a freelancer who has written for many clients, including Miami Vet. Her articles often tackle issues regarding animal health, and she hopes that these will provide people with more info about how to properly take care of their pets.