Q: For years I’ve heard chocolate is bad for dogs. Can you tell me why it’s such a problem? T.R., Farragut
A: The active ingredient in chocolate responsible for toxicities in dogs is theobromine. The degree of toxicity is directly related to the amount of theobromine in the chocolate. Baking chocolates, dark and semi-sweet chocolate contain higher concentrations of theobromine, making them more dangerous to our pets.
In contrast, milk chocolate contains less theobromine. And interesting, white chocolate doesn’t contain theobromine at all.
Chocolate also contains caffeine, which can also be a problem for dogs, but it stays in the system a much shorter period. The fats and sugars in chocolate desserts can also cause varying degrees of gastrointestinal distress, and potentially even pancreatitis.
Veterinarians often use a computer program with a “chocolate toxicity calculator.” It takes into account the weight of the pet, the type of chocolate and the amount.
This helps us determine the seriousness of the situation, and whether or not we should induce vomiting.
Ingestion of theobromine can cause vomiting, diarrhea, tremors and seizures. Unfortunately, in high amounts chocolate toxicity can be fatal.
Human food, including chocolate, should be stored in places that your pet cannot access. If you know or suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
If you have questions about your pet, you may e-mail Dr. Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org