Friday, February 11, 2011

Chocolate isn't for everyone — especially dogs

Valentine's Day and chocolate candy go hand-in-hand. While delicious for humans, chocolate (milk chocolate and baking chocolate) can be very unsafe for dogs.

One of the chemical components in chocolate, theobromine, can adversely affect a dog's cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and central nervous systems. It is found in cacao seeds, the fruit of the plant used to make coffee. Darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of theobromines, while baking chocolate contains the highest.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' Animal Poison Control Center, mild signs of poisoning occur in animals ingesting 20 mg of theobromine and caffeine per kg of bodyweight, severe signs are seen at 40-50 mg/kg, and seizures occur at 60 mg/kg.

How your dog reacts to swallowing chocolate will be a function of his size, general health, sensitivity to theobromine and caffeine, and the type and quantity of chocolate eaten.

If you think your dog has eaten chocolate (more than the stray chip on the floor), or you see the following symptoms: nervousness, trembling, vomiting/diarrhea, excessive thirst, muscle spasm, seizures, it's best to act quickly. Contact your veterinarian for advice right away. Early diagnosis and treatment can make a big difference toward a successful recovery.

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