There are a lot of diet and food related myths out there for both humans as well as for dogs. The one about chocolates and dogs is unfortunately not one of them. Why unfortunate, you might ask. Because well, chocolate is to dogs what alcohol is to us, humans. Both are great tasting, addictive and often impossible to refuse. And chocolate is more often than not, freely available within the reach of our dogs in the household. Not a welcome combination by any stretch of the imagination.
Most Chocolates contain very high amounts fats and sugars, which are unhealthy not just for dogs, but also for their masters! But it is the stimulants, the active ingredients within cocoa that are quite similar to caffeine, that pose the greatest threat to our four-legged friends. For us humans though, chemicals like theobromine and methylxanthines stimulate our nerves and make us feel happy and great. But dogs are unable to process these chemicals the same way we do, and thus dangerously toxic levels of these stimulants can build up in their body in a very short amount of time, causing severe poisoning.
Theobromine poisoning is very dangerous and can lead to serious clinical effects and even death in canines. If your dog has ingested a significant amount of theobromine, it will suffer from diarrhea, vomiting, excessive panting, urination and thirst, irregular heart rhythms, tremors and seizures and in severe cases, death. The amount of chocolate required to cause these symptoms varies depending on the size of pooch as well as the kind and type of chocolate ingested. A chihuahua might fall ill after taking a few bites off a chocolate chip cookie. A Great Dane will probably have to wolf down a whole bag of choco-chips to get similar effects.
Much more than sheer quantity, the quality and type of chocolate consumed can mean a difference between life and death for a dog. Cheaper common milk chocolates and white chocolates tend to have more fat and sugar and lesser percentages of cocoa. The fat and sugar will probably give your dog a bout of tummy trouble, but the severity of theobromine poisoning will be less. Severe, but still lesser than in the case of darker and bitter chocolates. These have much higher concentrations of cocoa and can be considered highly dangerous and potentially lethal. For all practical purposes, such chocolates can be regarded as dog poison.
It doesn’t matter if your dogs love the taste of chocolate and keep asking for it with those big, imploring eyes. They don’t know what is right for them, but you do. And their well being is your responsibility. Please refrain from giving them chocolates as treats and always make sure that the stuff is well out of their reach. If you see them eating chocolates, or have reason to suspect that they might have done so, call your vet at once. If it involves significant amounts of dark chocolate, rush to the clinic. Your dog’s life will depend on it, for sure.