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Will Eating Chocolate Kill Your Dog?

Joan Young By Joan Young on
Badge: Editor | Level: 34 | Pets Expertise:
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The Case of the Chocolate Larcenists

I’m not planning to argue with the veterinary advice so prevalent these days that says that even a little chocolate can kill your dog, but I have some anecdotal evidence that proves that even a lot of chocolate isn’t fatal for all dogs.

I was reminded, this Christmas morning, of the two major stories I’m going to tell you, when Maggie decided that a bag full of cookies had been labeled with her name, not ours. She managed to snag about six homemade chocolate chip cookies, and four peanut butter ones. The only good news is that we had at least enjoyed a few of them before she helped herself to her generous portion. She suffered no adverse reaction at all from this indulgence.

OK, OK, don’t send me hate mail and tell me how careless and cruel I am, and how dangerous chocolate can be. But the truth is that at some point, your dog may steal some chocolate even if you are vigilant. The key questions are:

1. What is the size of your dog? For small dogs, a smaller quantity of chocolate can be a problem. Makes sense.

2. How dark is the chocolate? The darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains, and that’s the natural chemical that is such a problem for dogs.

3. How sensitive is your dog to this chemical? There’s no way to know ahead of time.

Dog Owner’s Digest lists symptoms (progressively by seriousness) as:

1. Vomiting

2. Agitation

3. Hyperactivity

4. Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)

5. Muscle twitching

6. Frequent urination

7. Hyperthermia (dog is too hot- may be panting)

8. Seizures

9. Death

Long before anyone was telling us that chocolate could be bad for dogs, we had two significant episodes of grand chocolate larceny. The first involved a 35-pound coon hound- beagle mix named Bonnie. We were visiting my in-laws and there was a heaped-full plate of chocolate chip cookies on the table. They disappeared! We knew that one of our two pups was the culprit, but which one? We had no trouble figuring it out about an hour later. Poor little Bonnie was lying on her back on the couch, groaning! Her tummy was hot and swollen. We laughed at her self-inflicted agony, and a couple of hours later she was fine. I’m sure I would have had the same reaction, too, if I’d eaten an entire batch of chocolate chip cookies!

The other incident involved the 65-pound mutt named Hezekiah. He was a big, white, rock-stupid dog that I loved dearly. We called him “fuzzy pig.” One day as I was putting away groceries, I noticed that a half-gallon of chocolate ice cream was missing. You guessed it. Heze ate the whole thing! He promptly threw it all up, which seemed like a well-deserved punishment for a greedy dog. However, it wasn’t a lot of fun for me to clean up!

In both of these cases, the dose of chocolate was pretty large, and the after-effects were comical, not tragic.

So, am I trying to say that the medical warnings are overly cautious? Not really. We should always be looking out for the welfare of our pets. I definitely wouldn’t feed a dog chocolate on purpose. I’m simply sharing my experiences with two dogs who ate large doses of chocolate and lived to tell.

Now, if I could just make myself stop eating so much of it!