Why Chocolate is Dangerous for Dogs and Not Humans

June 16, 2010 at 1:09 am 7 comments

Whether it was your idea or not, your dog or cat may swallow chocolate at sometime in their life.

You want to avoid that since there are two toxins in chocolate that can have adverse affects on your pets: caffeine and theobromine.

Both of these drugs are very similar, but chocolate contains a lot more theobromine than caffeine. Theobromine does not affect the human nervous system as much as caffeine, nor is it as addictive as caffeine. But, theobromine is still addictive and believed to be the agent that causes Chocolate addiction. It is also believed to be responsible for chocolate’s notoriety as an aphrodisiac.

Although theobromine increases heart rate in humans, it also dilates blood vessels, which reduces blood pressure. In fact, it is superior to codeine at suppressing cough and can be helpful in relaxing muscles to alleviate symptoms of asthma.

Humans are able to consume chocolate in moderation because we can breakdown theobromine fairly quickly. In dogs, cats, rats and other species, they cannot digest it efficiently. This leads to a buildup of this toxin and is known as theogromine poisoning. Actually, this can also happen to elderly people who consume large quantities of chocolate.

For animals, a dangerous quantity of chocolate depends on the type of chocolate. Milk chocolate is not as dangerous as semisweet chocolate and it’s not as dangerous as cocoa powder.

Milk chocolate contains approx 44-64 milligrams of theobromine per ounce. Semi-sweet chocolate is about 150-160 mg/oz. Cocoa powder is 800 mg/oz.

A toxic dose for pets is 100-200 mg/kg of body weight (1 kg = 2.2 pounds). That said, problems can still be evident with smaller doses.

Signs of toxicity include:

  • Excitement, nervousness, trembling
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Excessive thirst
  • Muscle spasms
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death (usually a result of other problems caused by the toxin)

As much as people like to treat their pets like humans, they are not human and should not be treated like humans when it comes to diet. There are many other human foods that are not recommended and poisonous to pets:

  • Alcohol
  • Avocado
  • Coffee
  • Fatty Foods
  • Onions
  • Raisins and grapes
  • Salt
  • Yeast dough
  • Garlic
  • Artificial sweetener

Pet’s digestive systems are very different from humans. Checkout Vetinfo for more details on why some of the above foods should not be fed to your animals.

Thanks to Ryan W for suggesting this secret.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Sources: Wikipedia (Theobromine), About.com, Vetinfo

Entry filed under: Around The House, Be Efficient, Health and Beauty. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Elbyron  |  June 16, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Thanks for posting the dosages of chocolate that make it toxic! I’ve always wondered about that, and I know many people over-react when their dog eats a few M&Ms.
    I think the alcohol and coffee are pretty obvious, but I didn’t know about most of those others. The onions and garlic surprised me, but it turns out a small dog has to eat an entire large onion or garlic bulb to get sick. Same with the salt – only large quantities are harmful (like eating homemade play-dough).
    You should be clear that the artificial sweetener that is known to be toxic is xylitol, and there is currently no evidence that sucralose or aspartame will cause harm. Xylitol is mostly just used in gum, sugar-free candies or mints, and some products sold at health-food stores.
    The Vetinfo article also mentioned raw salmon and large quantities of broccoli as being potentially dangerous to dogs. And just one or two mistletoe berries can be fatal – so use the fake stuff during the holiday season!

  • 2. Bonnie  |  June 17, 2010 at 8:16 am

    Interesting. Always wondered about that one :)

    Grapes and raisins.. really? They’re both common treats for small animals like rabbits.

  • 3. Charyl  |  June 17, 2010 at 10:50 am

    I did not know that garlic was a danger but nuts are another thing which are quite dangerous.

  • 4. Gerald Bosacker  |  June 17, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    I shall never die of cancer.
    Sweet chocolate will finish me,
    This self-destruction answer,
    won’t leave me deep in poverty.

    I’ll gladly let my waistline bulge,
    and not raid my pharmacy shelf.
    With Hershey poisons I’ll indulge
    and with kisses, embalm myself.

  • 5. Daniel  |  July 19, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    You may want to check out a book by Harold McGee, ‘On Food and Cooking.’ He pretty much demolishes the notion that there is anything addictive in chocolate. When people experiencing chocolate cravings were given chocolate substitutes, the cravings vanished. When they were given chocolate in pill form (bypassing the flavour receptors on the tongue), the cravings did not abate.

  • 6. White Chocolate is Real Chocolate « Broken Secrets  |  August 3, 2010 at 5:04 am

    […] Healthy humans can break down reasonable amounts of this compound, but many animals cannot. This is why chocolate can be harmful to pets. White chocolate contains only trace amounts of theobromine, which is what gives other chocolate […]

  • 7. Jessica  |  October 2, 2013 at 10:53 am

    The raisins and grapes are okay for guinea pigs and rabbits – guinea pigs are the UK’s no.1 pet (practically everyone has or have had one)


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