Valentine’s Day Chocolate Can Spell Trouble for Dogs

National Chocolate Day…er…um…Valentine’s Day is upon us once again, and with it comes the usual gifts of chocolate in all its yummy forms. 

But like some other foods we’ve already talked about, chocolate is not a good treat for your pet. Chocolate contains a chemical compound known as theobromine. While humans metabolize theobromine quite easily, dogs don’t handle it as well. They metabolize theobromine quite slowly, so slowly in fact that toxic levels can build up in their bodies.

While chocolate is indeed hazardous, how dangerous it is to your particular dog depends on a couple of things: the amount of chocolate consumed and the size of your dog. The more chocolate consumed the greater the danger and smaller dogs are at greater risk.

So if you have a small dog that has ingested a large amount of chocolate, he could be in serious trouble. This does’t mean that large dogs are not in danger but they do have to consume more chocolate than a smaller dog to become ill.

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs include, with smaller amounts, an upset digestive system with diarrhea and vomiting. Dogs that have eaten larger amounts of chocolate can suffer an irregular heartbeat, shaking and trembling, seizures, internal bleeding and even heart attacks. 

Be aware that different types of chocolate contain varying levels of theobromine, with dark and bitter chocolate having the highest concentrations. Less than one ounce of dark or bitter chocolate can be enough to poison a dog that weighs 44 pounds. 

NOTE: The treatment for chocolate poisoning in dogs is usually to induce vomiting, preferably within two hours of the dog eating the chocolate but you should always consult with your veterinarian before implementing this. And never induce vomiting in a dog that is not fully alert, as there is a very real danger of the dog choking and getting fluids into the lungs.

If you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, especially if you have a small dog, do not wait for symptoms to appear. And if your dog has ingested chocolate sweetened with xylitol, this is a double problem. Call your veterinarian immediately! 

Happy Valentine’s Day and stay safe!

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By Ellen Britt

Dr. Ellen Britt has loved dogs since she was a child. She is particularly fond of the Northern breeds, especially Alaskan Malamutes. Ellen worked as a PA in Emergency and Occupational Medicine for two decades and holds a doctorate (Ed.D.) in biology.

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