Sunday, February 3, 2013

Toxic Chocolate and Dogs

So I usually try to avoid subjects like this that almost certainly will cause a huge conflict. But since it’s a new year and I’m feeling particularly conflicty, I’ve decided it’s time to write this post that I’ve been wanting to write for quite a few months now. And this is going to be a rather long post, so grab yourself your favorite chocolate and settle in.

Everyone has heard the classic “Chocolate is toxic for dogs.” We’ve been warned that any amount will end their lives – even just licking the chocolate! Okay, maybe not that far, but you catch my meaning. This old story has become nothing more than an old wives tale to me, and I’ll tell you why.

My mother told me that she used to feed her dog the occasional piece of chocolate, and her dog – a small peekapoo – lived a full 18 year life – in human years. <—that’s your mini story.

Here’s another one. When I was younger, like 5-years-oldish, my sister and I would allow our dog – a Black Labrador – to indulge in some Halloween candy with us, he loved Tootsie Rolls, M&Ms, and Hershey’s Kisses. He, as well, lived a full doggy life.

Now that I’m the owner of a Terrier Mix and a Chihuahua, I decided to further investigate why those dogs were able to eat chocolate after what had been told to me and everyone else.

What I found, is that people – like dogs – can also ingest too much chocolate to a point of becoming very, very ill. Chocolate is toxic for humans too! Which further led my investigations to believe that if humans can ingest chocolate to a point, there must be a point that dogs can ingest it too.

I also found that other researchers concluded the same thing. I learned it’s not the chocolate that causes the toxicity, it’s the “theobromine” in the chocolate. Here’s the breakdown for chocolate toxicity in order of least toxic to most:

  • White chocolate – signs of toxicity can occur when 45 ounces per pound of body weight is eaten; so a 10 pound dog would need to eat approximately 28 pounds of white chocolate before the chocolate was toxic.
  • Milk Chocolate – signs of toxicity can occur when 1 ounce per pound of body weight is eaten, so a 10 pound dog would need to eat before he became ill.
  • Sweet Cocoa (includes instant cocoa) – only one third of an ounce of chocolate per pound of body weight is needed before symptoms of toxicity would show. A 10 pound dog would need three ounces.
  • Baking Chocolate – this has the highest incidence of theobromine and just one tenth of an ounce per pound of body weight is enough to be toxic.

Now here’s the warnings for you. These estimates above are the estimated point where toxicity could occur, for safety reasons, you don’t want to feed your dog anywhere near that point – if you feed him any at all. The above info IS just an estimate, it could vary depending on your dog. Your dog could be allergic to theobromine or some thing else in the chocolate or could have some other health issue that is affected or made worse by the consumption of chocolate.

I’ve also heard from that dogs don’t digest chocolate well in their system so it could take them longer to digest or mess with their chi or something (didn’t look into that, that’s a whole other range of research, I was just looking for the point of toxicity). The reason that they probably said all chocolate is a dog killer is because a little bit can be too much, and for that reason, it’s not worth it to chance it.

Also, if you start feeding your dog chocolate, it’ll be more important for you to keep any and all chocolate out of his/her reach, because they could develop a taste for it, and won’t know when enough is enough.

The information here is not intended to make you run out and give your dog a chocolate bar, it’s to get rid of the rumor that any amount of chocolate is bad for dogs. And to assure you that if your dog has eaten a bite of chocolate he/she won’t die and you probably won’t have to take him/her to the vet just for that little tiny bit.

My blog post can’t cover it all. There’s tons of info and facts out there. I’m also including a link for how to know if your dog consumed too much chocolate.

Dog Topics: How Much Chocolate Can Your Dog Eat

Dog Owners Digest: Chocolate and Dog Poisoning

eZineArticles: My Dog Ate Chocolate

So give me your thoughts! Be biased and mean. Or all nice and fluffy. And Happy February!

As a side note, I don’t accept responsibility for anything that may happen to your dog upon eating chocolate. As mentioned, there could be some other underlying health issue or allergy. So use common sense, and when in doubt, contact your vet. Though they’ll most likely scold you for considering feeding them human food.