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Keep the Chocolates Out of Reach

I will never forget the day when one of my labs, Hayley, wandered into the garage and found a 2-pound box of Fannie May chocolate that I thought was out of her reach. When I went to the garage I found her there, sitting among a mess of shredded paper and an empty chocolate box, looking at me with those big dark eyes and a chocolate moustache. Needless to say, I was in a state of panic. My best friend had just eaten essentially poison! It is common knowledge that chocolate is dangerous to dogs, but many of us don’t know the hows or whys of it. I immediately called my vet to find out what I needed to do, and I quickly got a crash-course in chocolate safety with dogs. Luckily, I learned some very valuable and interesting information!

First and foremost, it is true that chocolate is not only dangerous but can be fatal to dogs. The danger lies within a naturally occurring component of chocolate, theobromine, to be specific. Theobromine is part of the cocoa bean. This substance affects a dog’s central nervous system and heart. The signs of chocolate poisoning will start to show up within a few hours of ingestion. These symptoms can range from the very mild, like increased urination and panting, to the much more serious, like epileptic seizures and death. The degree of symptoms depends on how much of the theobromine was ingested.

Different types of chocolate have different levels of theobromine. Baker’s chocolate and dark chocolate have the largest concentration of theobromine while milk chocolate has the lowest levels. The amount of chocolate that will cause harm will depend on the type of chocolate ingested and the weight of the dog. The smaller the dog, the smaller the amount of chocolate needed to do damage.

Luckily for Hayley, the chocolate she ate was milk chocolate. Don’t get me wrong, chocolate is not good for dogs, period. However, since she ate milk chocolate, the theobromine was present in a much lower concentration. I watched Hayley the whole night like a worried parent, so scared that she was going to be sick. She made it through the chocolate binge of 2009, but after that, I always make sure to keep any chocolate-containing treat out of reach of my 4-legged friends. Also, this was such an important learning experience for me. The vet told me that in addition to chocolate, dogs should never eat onions, macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins, and sugar-free candy.

Pets are such an important part of our lives; they are our best friends, companions, and part of our family. As such, it is so easy to forget that they are very different from humans and can’t eat the things that we eat. It is important as part of our pets’ well-being to become familiar with animal food safety to ensure our pets are with us for the long haul! Oh, and keep the chocolate out of reach!

William Bosch, CPCU, AIC
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