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Chocolate toxic to dogs

HOW many times have you heard someone confess that they love chocolate themselves and sometimes give their dog a few pieces although they have heard that it is not good for dogs and could make them sick?

That is, unfortunately, quite a common occurrence but the truth is that you are not doing your dog any favours as far as health is concerned. Chocolate contains theobromine, a toxicant responsible for causing canine illness. Signs of theobrimine poisoning include vomiting, excessive thirst, diarrhoea, restlessness and agitation.

These signs usually develop in six to eight hours. Kidney damage, seizures, heart rhythm irregularities and death may result, in severe cases. There is no real antidote for a theobromine overdose. Support and care can be given, and vomiting can be induced if the poisoning is recognised early enough. Obviously the best course of action is not to feed your dog chocolate to begin with and to be sure to hide your own chocolate stash so your dog can't help himself!

Luckily this seems to be what usually happens - human owners with a chocoholic habit do not want their dog to find and demolish their stores, so are generally careful about where they keep them. Perhaps the biggest danger could be from visitors or children who may leave chocolate they have brought with them, or been given, in an accessible place, such as on a coffee table.

White chocolate, however, follows different rules. Some dog treats are available dipped in white chocolate. Is this safe?

The answer is yes. Regular dark chocolate is made from cacao beans, the source of high levels of theobromine, a caffeine-like substance. White chocolate, on the other hand, is made from cocoa butter, which is safe for dogs.
The amount of theobromine in powdered cocoa varies, but it can be quite high. Usually, the darker the chocolate the higher the theobromine content. The amount of caffeine in different chocolate products is also extremely variable. For example, unsweetened baking chocolate reputedly has up to 10 times the caffeine of milk chocolate.

This means that as an after-dinner snack or supper treat, white chocolate is less likely to keep you awake half the night than dark chocolate. So what about the chocolate nibbles made especially for dogs - do they contain theobromine? The answer here is no. Manufacturers have formulated them to contain extra vitamins and minerals and to have various added qualities.

They are made especially for dogs, and although they are called choc drops, the name is not accurate - they are made of carob, and are therefore quite safe.

If you eat chocolate yourself you may like to keep a packet of 'chocolate' treats for your dog so that you can give him/her a treat when you succumb to the nibble habit yourself (and it does protect you from that feeling of guilt when your dog tries on the "sad eyes and drooling" look that they all keep in reserve for just such occasions).

However, you must remember that dogs are always healthier without chocolate in any form and even the specially produced treats should be used only on very special occasions - not as a daily substitute for some TLC from you as the dog's owner.

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