If I were to pick one food that I couldn't live without for the rest of my life, it'd be chocolate. But for dogs, it's one of the few foods that they can't live with. Yes, chocolate can literally kill a dog.
With Valentines Day just around the corner, you may be asking: what is it about Chocolate and dogs that don't mix?
You might have heard that it's the caffeine in chocolate that can harm your dog, but that's only partially true. Caffeine certainly isn't good for your pet, but the real killer ingredient is "The Food of the Gods," Theobromine. Yes, the substance is derived from the Greek words "Theo" (God) and "Broma" (Food), and is named after the scientific genus of the cacao tree. And the Cacao tree is where we get the sweet manna from heaven known as chocolate.
Yes, if it's death by chocolate, Theobromine is to blame (at least in dogs and cats). While Theobromine has several health benefits to humans in moderate doses, dogs have a hard time metabolizing it. And while it's lingering in their system, it can cause symptoms of nausea, vomiting, increased urination and diarrhea. As the poisoning progresses, it can cause convulsions, blood in the urine and death.
First, quickly evaluate the type of chocolate and amount consumed. The darker and purer the chocolate the worse it is for your dog. Here's a list of chocolate types from most to least dangerous:
For cocoa beans and powder, just one ounce can be enough to kil a small or medium dog. For Dark Chocolate, two ounces can be fatal.
If you suspect your dog has injested even close to the amounts above, get veterinary help immediately. Don't wait for symptoms to start. Don't assume that because this or other dogs may have had chocolate in the past that things will be fine. Theobromine concentrations vary considerably, and dogs have wide differences in tolerance for chocolate.
Yes. Fortunately (or unfortunately?) for cats, they are the only mammals who lack the ability to taste sweetness. Therefore, they're much less likely to eat chocolate.
Unfortunately, they're typically lighter than dogs, and an even smaller dose can poison them. If your cat does defy the odds and injest chocolate, the rules above still apply.