Being safe with chocolate

There is nothing quite like a chocolate splurge at this time of year. You may have a desire to share your favourite treat with an eager onlooker (a.k.a furbaby) but think twice and reach for a dog treat instead.

 

Different Types of Chocolate

Chocolate is made from the beans of the tropical Cacao tree. Beans are roasted, ground, pressed (which removes the oil of the seed, the cocoa butter that is used in sunscreens, white chocolate, and cosmetics, among other things), and tempered to create an exact consistency. Many different types of chocolate products are produced from this one magic bean:

  • Chocolate liquor produced from grinding hulled cacao beans.
  • Cocoa butter is the fat that is extracted from the chocolate liquor.
  • Cocoa powder is the solid that remains after the cocoa butter is removed from the chocolate liquor.
  • Unsweetened (baking) chocolate is chocolate liquor containing 50% to 60% cocoa butter.
  • Dark chocolate (also known as semisweet chocolate) is chocolate that is 35% chocolate liquor (the rest being sugar, vanilla, or lecithin).
  • Milk chocolate is chocolate that is at least 10% chocolate liquor, the rest being milk solids, vanilla or lecithin.

Chocolate danger # 1

Sharing is not always caring…..as far as pets are concerned, the first potential problem with chocolate is the fat. A sudden high fat meal can create a potentially lethal metabolic disease in dogs called pancreatitis.  Vomiting, diarrhoea, and severe abdominal pain are just some of the worrying signs of disease. In pancreatitis it is the fat that causes the problem more than the chocolate itself.

Chocolate danger # 2

The most common chocolate ingestion danger, the fat and sugar in the chocolate cause an unpleasant but temporary upset stomach.

Chocolate danger # 3

Chocolate is directly toxic to dogs because of the theobromine. The more chocolate liquor there is in a product, the more theobromine there is. This makes baking chocolate the worst for pets, followed by semisweet and dark chocolate, followed by milk chocolate, followed by chocolate flavoured cakes or cookies. Theobromine causes some nasty signs including:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Hyperactivity
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Racing heart rhythm progressing to abnormal rhythms
  • Death in severe cases

Toxic doses of theobromine will vary depending on what type of chocolate has been ingested.

It takes nearly four days for the effects of chocolate to work its way out of a dog’s system. If the chocolate was just eaten, your veterinarian may be able to induce vomiting; otherwise, hospitalisation and support are needed. It is common for clinics to receive phone calls about pets that were found to have consumed a chocolate product and the owner wishes to know if the amount was toxic. In order to answer such questions, please be ready with these details:  pet’s weight, the type of chocolate, and the amount of chocolate. Below is a chocolate calculator that can help you determine whether your dog has ingested a toxic amount (your regular or emergency veterinarian is your local authority and can help):

Chocolate calculator

 

Be safe with chocolate this Easter…….reach for a dog safe treat.

 

About Dr Kate

Perth vet and proprietor of Kalmpets Animal Behaviour Centre and Dog Day Care, Dr Kate Lindsey completed a first class honours degree in zoology and neuroscience at UWA, followed by a veterinary degree with first class honours, at Murdoch. Since graduating in 2005, Dr Kate has worked as a vet in small animal practices around Perth. As her zoological roots show, she has always had an interest in animal behaviour. Dr Kate successfully completed a post-graduate program in veterinary behaviour medicine and was admitted as a member of The Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists by examination in Animal Behaviour in 2012. She is a qualified veterinarian behaviourist. Dr Kate established Kalmpets in 2012, Western Australia’s only sole focus mobile vet behaviour practice that delivered comprehensive solutions to improve behaviour problems in dogs, cats and pets.

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