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Why Can Dogs Not Have Chocolate?

Your canine-compadre loves to eat. With only 1700 taste buds to a human’s 9000, you would think that taste doesn’t matter too much to them but you have to factor in their super-noses. With 125 million olfactory sensors compared to our paltry 5 – 10 million, the way that they experience food is actually quite unique and they smell anything that you are eating before you do.

 Probably even from the backyard, those showoffs!. 

So, why can dogs not have chocolate? It’s something that we dog owners argue about because face it, we want them to be able to eat whatever we are eating. So we give them some chocolate and usually the dog seems fine but the problem that we need to worry about is a chemical called Theobromine. 

Dogs can not have chocolate because it contains a chemical called Theobromine which when consumed in quantity can prove to be fatal.

We’ll tell you more about this, as well as what levels of chocolate are toxic, and the scoop on something that you might not have heard about – dog chocolate! Let’s start with Theobromine and why you shouldn’t let it anywhere near your dog.

It’s all about the Theobromine

The problem with chocolate is an alkaloid chemical called Theobromine. When cacao seeds are processed this bitter compound is included in the mix and while it’s harmless to humans, this is not the case with dogs. While they have significantly more acid in their stomachs for digestion, allowing them to eat things that would hurt us, they are not able to metabolize Theobromine as quickly as humans. Worse, the effect is cumulative.

A small amount of chocolate seems harmless and in some cases, you won’t notice any ill-effects, generally with larger dogs. This is why you hear about people who say that they can feed their dog chocolate and it’s fine. The thing is, it isn’t fine, as this toxin can accumulate and typically starts to show as vomiting or diarrhea and from there it gets worse.

Symptoms of Theobromine toxicity may include one or more of the following:

  • Seizures
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Tremors
  • Internal bleeding
  • Irregular heartbeat and possibility of a heart attack
  • Hyperactivity

Hyperactivity is the first warning sign that you get. So, if your dog has gotten into your Valentine’s or Christmas candies or just your personal stash, you should get them to the vet so that they may induce vomiting. This is something that you want to have done within 2 hours of ingestion if at all possible so if you are worried, get to the vet right away!

why can dogs not have chocolate?

Wait, how much chocolate are we talking here?!

First, you should know that different chocolates are going to have different levels of toxicity. White chocolate, for instance, has lower quantities of Theobromine than most other chocolates, whereas dark chocolate has more theobromine than standard milk chocolate. Confusing, right?

The best thing to do is to avoid chocolate altogether and to help to drive this point home, here are some hard examples of the toxicity of different chocolates:

  • Baking chocolate – 1 ounce of baking chocolate per pound of your dog’s weight is a lethal dosage, but even 1 ounce can make a 10-pound dog sick!
  • Milk Chocolate – 1 ounce per every pound of your dog’s weight is lethal with milk chocolate and while your average candy bar is 2/3 of an ounce, 2 of 3 of these is enough to poison a 10-pound dog.
  • Sweet Cacao powder – Cacao powder is the most dangerous of these 3, with just .3 ounces per pound weight of your pooch being lethal. 1/3 of a pound of Cacao powder can make a 20-pound dog very, very sick so you want to be sure if you ever spill some that you keep your dog away until it is safely cleaned up.

Good news – ‘Dog Chocolate’ exists!

Now that we have given you the facts about dogs and chocolate we have a little good news. If you want to celebrate your birthday or any old day with you and your dog enjoying some sweet-treats together, there is a chocolate alternative that you can use.

Sometimes called ‘’Saint John’s bread’ or ‘locust beans’, but most commonly known as ‘Carob’, this treat looks like chocolate and is sweet to the taste. While it doesn’t taste exactly like chocolate, having a more ‘nutty’ flavor to it, some dogs absolutely love it.

You can buy carob chips and they look just like chocolate chips and yes, you can make cookies from them that you and your beloved furball can share together safely. Even just the chips make great treats but if you Google ‘carob recipes for dogs’ there are a huge number of dog-friendly recipes if you want to plan a special birthday for your furry friend.

We hope that you will take this information to heart the next time that your dog is giving you that sad look to try to get you to part with your chocolate. As you can see, this is one of those rare times that you are going to have to say ‘no’, but you can make things right with a little carob and a lot of love!

Your dog will forgive you because they always, always do!

For more information on what foods your dogs can and can’t eat please see our article here.

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