Why Can't Dogs Eat Candy or Chocolate?

by Jennifer Leighton
    Feed your puppy pet food, no chocolate for dessert!

    Feed your puppy pet food, no chocolate for dessert!

    Jupiterimages/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images

    Inquisitive pups of all ages tend to love eating the same sugary treats that their human owners may enjoy. However, you must vigilantly keep your pets away from chocolate because of its theobromine content. This ingredient, which is highly toxic to dogs, is one of the 20 most commonly reported pet poisonings, according to Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine.

    The minimum toxic amount of theobromine is 100 to 200 mg per kilogram of body weight. The minimum amount of theobromine ingestion will not cause death in a dog, but can cause extreme illness. About half of dogs who ingest 250 to 500 mg/kg of theobromine will die as a result, according to Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine.

    The pet's weight has a major bearing upon how severely the dog is affected by theobromine. For example, a 10-pound dog could become severely ill after eating a single ounce of baking chocolate or dark chocolate. However, a 60-pound dog eating that same ounce of baking chocolate will generally be much less severely impacted.

    Baking chocolate and dark chocolate contain around 450 mg of theobromine per ounce. This is the highest amount of theobromine found in any type of chocolate, making this the most dangerous kind of chocolate for dogs. Semisweet chocolate, like that found in semisweet baking chips, contains 260 mg of theobromine in each ounce. Milk chocolate, the most common type of chocolate sold today, contains 60 mg of theobromine per ounce. White chocolate contains by far the lowest amounts of theobromine levels among all the types of chocolate, with only about 12 mg per ounce. Regardless of the theobromine levels, any amount at all is bad for dogs and should be avoided.

    Initial signs of theobromine poisoning usually start within one to four hours after initial ingestion, and clinical chocolate toxicosis signs normally appear within six to 12 hours after the dog eats chocolate. Common early signs include vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, bloated stomach and restlessness, such as pacing. If you don't seek treatment soon after the dog ingests the chocolate, symptoms can progress to include balance problems, hyperactive behavior, seizures, muscle spasms, abnormal heart rhythm and coma as the theobromine is absorbed fully into the dog's body. Ultimately, theobromine poisoning can be fatal due to cardiac arrhythmia, hyperthermia or respiratory failure. If you take your dog for emergency veterinary care as soon as you discover the chocolate wrappers and his cocoa-smelling breath, the pet has the best chance for recovery. "The sooner, the better" is the best rule to follow for vet care after any type of chocolate ingestion.

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    About the Author

    Jennifer Leighton has been a professional writer since 2007, specializing in technology topics such as video games and computers. Leighton studied psychology and computer science at the University of New Mexico.

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