Can Dogs Eat Chocolate? (Nutritional Guide)
No, dogs cannot eat chocolate, regardless of how much they plead or give you a sad look. Chocolates contain certain compounds that can be detrimental to the health of Fido. This is despite reassurances that white or milk chocolate is safe for dogs if given in moderation. While this may be true, it is still not 100% guarantee that your dog will be safe.
Chocolates: A Big No-No in Dogs
Chocolates are one of those food items that people go crazy about. Every Valentine’s Day, you’d see lovers buying boxes of decadent chocolate sweets to give to their partners. Birthdays and other special occasions are no exceptions. In fact, they say that chocolates can be beneficial to one’s health. It contains powerful antioxidants and can elevate the levels of good cholesterol in the body. It also has the potential to lower the blood pressure.
While chocolates can be beneficial to humans, it is a mortal sin among dogs. This delicacy contains the compound theobromine, in addition to caffeine. Theobromine is a type of xanthine alkaloid that can produce a number of effects in the body. It includes dilatation of the blood vessels, stimulation of the heart, and increased urine production.
Humans are able to digest large amounts of chocolates because the digestive system is more efficient. However, in susceptible individuals, increased amounts of theobromine intake can lead to increased trembling, sweating, and severe headaches.
Dogs, on the other hand, are not able to process theobromine in an efficient manner. They can digest and metabolize it, but it often requires a long period of time. Hence, theobromine stays in the dog’s system a lot longer than it does in humans. Because of this, the dog can experience toxicity.
Theobromine toxicity in dogs can present as:
- Moderate to severe vomiting
- Increased frequency and volume of urination
- Abnormal heart rate
- Abnormal respirations
- Convulsions or seizures
If the dog has consumed large amounts of theobromine, it is not uncommon that death will ensue within hours of eating chocolates. That is why chocolates are a big no-no for dogs and cats.
Dark vs. Milk vs. White Chocolate
There is the observation that the darker the chocolate, the greater is the concentration of theobromine. It is for this reason that people give white chocolates to their dogs because it is a lot safer.
An ounce of dark chocolate can contain 12.2 milligrams of caffeine and 200 milligrams of theobromine. On the other hand, an ounce of milk chocolate contains about 60 milligrams of theobromine and 5.7 milligrams of caffeine. White chocolate contains negligible amounts of theobromine and caffeine. This makes white chocolate a good choice if you want to treat your dog.
But don’t rejoice just yet. It is true that white chocolate uses only cocoa butter instead of cocoa solids. This is in addition to sugar, milk products, lecithin, and vanilla. In theory, white chocolate IS NOT chocolate for the simple fact that it does not contain cocoa or chocolate solids. It is a mixture of fat and sweeteners.
This is the danger in white chocolate. You may not kill your dog with theobromine toxicity, but you are also increasing its risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. The high fat content of white chocolate can also upset your dog’s tummy.
An ounce of white chocolate contains about 10 grams of fat, 7 grams of which are saturated fats. In addition to this, it contains 13 grams of carbohydrates in the form of sugar. Dark chocolate, on the other hand, has 14 grams of fat, but zero sugar. It also contains 1 gram of protein and 2 grams of fiber.
It is true that white chocolate doesn’t contain theobromine. However, there is recent evidence suggesting that some white chocolate manufacturers are adding cocoa solids into their products. If this is true, then one is also giving theobromine to dogs, even though the product is white chocolate.
Amount of Chocolate that’s Lethal to Dogs
Mild chocolate toxicity can develop if the dog consumes about 20 milligrams of theobromine per kilogram of its body weight. The cardiac symptoms of toxicity start with the consumption of about 40 to 50 milligrams of theobromine per kilogram of body weight. Seizures can start to develop at theobromine levels of at least 60 mg per kilogram. The fatal dose is 90 to 250 milligrams per kilogram.
The lethality of chocolates hinges on theobromine concentrations of the different types of chocolates. We know that dark chocolates can contain up to 10 times the amount of theobromine in milk chocolate. And while white chocolate should not contain theobromine, recent changes in the way manufacturers produce white chocolate now also puts theobromine in its composition.
What to Do in Case Your Dog Ate Chocolate
The first 24 hours of consuming chocolates are critical to the health and welfare of your dog. That is why, if you think or know that your dog ate chocolate, there is no need to wait for the warning signs. This dog requires immediate and emergency veterinary attention.
At the clinic, the vet may give a medicine to induce vomiting in the dog. He may also flush the dog’s stomach to help remove the chocolate. Another option will be to administer activated charcoal, which will absorb the chocolate molecules and prevent it from getting into the animal’s blood. While these treatments are ongoing, the dog will have intravenous fluids.
If you did not know that your dog ate chocolate, it may try to vomit it on its own. If the vet is not available, it is possible to give the dog a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide for every 20 pounds of the dog’s weight. Use a medicine dropper or a turkey baster to administer the hydrogen peroxide. Some pet parents find using peanut butter to be helpful. Put peanut butter in a bowl and add hydrogen peroxide around the rim.
No amount or type of chocolate is ever safe for dogs. Hence, you should never give chocolate to your dog no matter how small it can be or if it is white chocolate. The risks far outweigh any benefits that you may come up with.