Why Can’t Dogs Eat Chocolate?

If your dog has consumed any amount of chocolate, follow this advice as per the American Kennel Club (AKC):

If you believe your dog ate chocolate, call your veterinarian immediately and/or call the Pet Poison Helpline (855-213-6680) for advice. Based on your dog’s size and the amount and type of chocolate consumed, your veterinarian may recommend that you simply monitor him for the clinical signs listed above and call back if his condition worsens.

Theobromine

The main culprit in chocolate is a chemical called theobromine. It is a diuretic, heart stimulant, and vasodilator. A diuretic promotes urination while a vasodilator widens blood vessels. The increased heart rate coupled with vasodilation causes a decrease in blood pressure. All species experience the same effects of theobromine. Dogs are more sensitive to it because they take much longer to metabolize it. Also, for the same amount of chocolate, there is a higher concentration in a dog’s bloodstream than there would be in a human’s. This also ties into the LD50 value for dogs and humans.

LD50 means “Lethal Dose-50%,” which is the dose of a chemical that would kill 50% of a given population of a species. For humans, the LD50 is 1000 mg/kg while for dogs, it is only about 250-500 mg/kg. Cats have an even lower value LD50 at 200 mg/kg. The amount of theobromine in chocolate is much smaller than the lethal dose for humans, so we don’t have to worry about it. Dogs, on the other hand, are much more sensitive to it. It would take significant effort for a human to overdose on theobromine. At the worst, our stomachs would get sick far before we would experience toxicosis. Dogs, though, experience horrible symptoms.

Symptoms of poisoning

Theobromine toxicosis results in these general symptoms:

  • Internal bleeding
  • Nausea
  • Convulsions
  • Abdominal distension
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness
  • Arrhythmia
  • Hyperthermia
  • Respiratory failure

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