Recent reports have suggested that dark chocolate may have positive effects on human health – it contains high amounts of antioxidants, lowers blood pressure, and lowers LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) by up to 10 percent. To the delight of many, we now have a good excuse for stocking our homes with delicious chocolate treats in light of the holiday season. Unfortunately, our furry companions don’t share the same benefits. We’ve all heard it, “don’t give your dog chocolate it will kill him”, yet many people will report that they have given their pets chocolate with no ill effects. So how true is it, you’re probably wondering?
Chocolate contains theobromine, a xanthine compound in the same family as caffeine, which is toxic to dogs in sufficient quantities. Xanthines affect the nervous system, cardiovascular system and peripheral nerves. Signs of toxicity in your pet may include hyper-excitability, increased heart rate, restlessness, muscle tremors, vomiting and diarrhea. Left untreated, a toxic dose of chocolate could lead to fatal heart arrhythmias and seizures. Baking chocolate is the most toxic, containing the most theobromine, with dark chocolate in close proximity and milk chocolate being the least. These compounds are toxic to our feline friends too; however, they seem to be more averse to chocolate than their canine counterparts. Older animals, especially those with underlying heart disease, are even more susceptible to the dangerous side-effects.
So what is a toxic dose? This depends on many factors including body weight and body composition. As an example, a toxic dose for a 10 pound dog or cat would be only half an ounce of dark chocolate, or 4 ounces of milk chocolate. If your pet has consumed chocolate, please contact us immediately, or a veterinary emergency hospital in the event that we are unavailable.