Sometimes your dog might get into foods that it shouldn’t. Your dog might lap up food that falls off your plate, or lick the ground where the food fell after you’ve cleaned it up. You may even notice your dog staring up at you longingly while you are sitting on the couch and enjoying a treat of your own. In most cases, an accidental bit of human food here and there is not a problem for dogs. That is, unless the food is chocolate. Most people are aware that chocolate is poisonous for dogs, yet dogs seem to be eager to get their paws on it. Your dog might seem to want and like chocolate as much as you do, but this doesn’t mean you should indulge them. Here is everything you should know about your dog’s chocolate cravings.
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The Root of the Behavior
There are two main reasons that your dog might seem to like chocolate. The first is that all dogs like sweet, sticky foods. It is natural that your dog is attracted to chocolate, and for the same reasons that you are! Dogs do not know that chocolate is poisonous for them; they are simply looking for a delicious treat. The second reason that dogs are attracted to chocolate is that they see that you are attracted to chocolate. If you are the type of person to make happy, pleased faces when you eat chocolate, you may not realize that you are enticing your dog. Dogs watch our body language and take cues from us, so if you appear to be enjoying a delicious chocolate treat, your dog will whine and watch and want to have the same treat as you! Chocolate contains a chemical compound called theobromine, which is the part of chocolate that is poisonous to dogs. When dogs consume chocolate, their bodies are unable to quickly process the theobromine, and the result is an increased heart rate with increased activity in their central nervous system. In high enough amounts, this can cause permanent nerve or brain damage, and in some cases, can be lethal. Theobromine is also toxic to humans, but humans are about 5 times more tolerant to theobromine than dogs are, and the amount of chocolate that you would need to consume to experience the same effects as your dog is far too much for you to eat in one sitting.
Still, you might have a dog or you might have heard of dogs who are able to consume chocolate without any negative repercussions. There are two reasons that your dog might seem resistant to chocolate poisoning. The first is that different types of chocolate have different theobromine concentrations. Milk chocolates have the lowest concentration of theobromine, followed by progressively darker and more bitter chocolates, followed by cocoa powder and baking chocolates, which have the highest concentrations. The size of the dog also makes a considerable difference in how much chocolate they are able to consume before the amount is considered lethal. In general, a 20-pound dog’s lethal dose of milk chocolate is about 1 pound, though this amount decreases the more theobromine a piece of chocolate contains.
Encouraging the Behavior
Your dog may want to share that dark, rich piece of chocolate with you, but it is never a good idea to feed your dog chocolate. Unfortunately, chocolate in any amount is toxic to dogs, and can have a strong negative impact on their overall health. If you are a chocolate lover, try not to eat it in front of your dog, that way your dog won’t be tempted to get into your chocolate box while you are away. Furthermore, you should never use chocolate as a reward for good behavior, or during training. Associating chocolate with positive behavior is one of the worst things you could do, and could cause a myriad of problems in your dog as it grows. If your dog eats chocolate, you should immediately take it to the vet, even if it doesn’t show obvious or immediate symptoms. Try your best to keep track of how much chocolate was consumed, what kind of chocolate was consumed, and how long it has been since your dog ate the chocolate. In cases of theobromine toxicity, it is possible that your vet will induce vomiting or attempt to purge the chocolate from your dog’s body before it can metabolize more dangerous chemicals. Unless your dog consumed an abnormally large amount of chocolate, quick action can typically avoid worst case scenarios, and in any case, getting your dog to the vet as quickly as possible is a good idea.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If your dog begins to suddenly act strange, but you cannot find the source of the behavior, it is possible that your dog consumed chocolate without leaving a trace. Dr. Ed Blach, chief medical officer and cofounder of Vet24seven says that if you suspect that your dog has gotten your chocolate, you should watch for “extreme thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle rigidity, agitation, hyperactive behavior, excessive panting, pacing, and seizures.” Though these signs can be scary, knowing them and recognizing them in your dog may help you to get your dog to the vet sooner rather than later. In general, it is good practice to take your dog to the vet as soon as you suspect that something is wrong, and not to wait and see if the symptoms will pass.
Next time you see your dog’s ears go up at the sight of a piece of chocolate, do your best to communicate that chocolate is bad, and not a treat. You may need to take it into another room and enjoy it in secret, and you should certainly cover and hide the box from plain sight. Your dog doesn’t know how bad chocolate is for its health, and unlike you, they should not be allowed the occasional indulgence.