There have been a lot of articles in the news about the lethal effects of chocolate recently, here's why! Chocolate contains theobromine. Theobromine is a similar compound to caffeine and stimulates the heart and nervous system. In dogs it can poison them, with death occurring from heart failure. Plain and dark chocolate contains more theobromine and therefore is more dangerous than milk chocolate if your dog ingests it. Theobromine stays in the dogs system for a long time; this means that chocolate poisoning can even occur if small amounts of chocolate are fed repeatedly. Also remember that cocoa powder, baking chocolate and other foods contain theobromine. In the November 2003 Issue of Dogs Today they also pointed out that Cocoa mulch (sold in garden centres) smells delicious to dogs but is highly toxic. Dog chocolate has had the theobromine removed. However, if it contains milk (see below) and sugar then it is probably best to avoid this as well, especially if your dog is already overweight!
A response to this about chocolate came from a very caring dog lover who sent the email below.
I am very upset about this story and also ashamed that it happened but it was an accident. I know chocolate is bad for dogs and having kids in the house that love chocolate and a Lurcher who is an excellent thief, I have always been extremely careful. However last year Sandy managed to get upstairs whilst we were out and ate an easter egg, possibly two. He had not eaten the wrapper but had carefully peeled it. There was some dispute about how many eggs the kids had eaten, so I decided to go with the worst scenario that Sandy had had two. He was quite hyper but I was not sure if the novelty of being upstairs whilst we were out was the cause. I went on the internet to find advice, not all helpful but a few said contact the vet. I rang him and he asked how much had been consumed, when, and what type of dog. He did some type of calculation and said he would suggest Sandy have an in injection to make him vomit as the chocolate had only very recently been consumed. It cost £75.00 as the vets' was shut (Saturday evening.) He had the injection and did vomit quite a lot. We stayed in the surgery for about an hour and then he was allowed home, luckily with no ill effects, he could easily have died. A warning and link of what to do and how important quick action is may help someone who finds themselves in that dreadful position.
Dogs, along with most other mammals lose, to a variable extent, their ability to digest lactose (milk sugar) with age, because the activity of the enzyme lactase declines with age. Source Manual of Companion Animal Nutrition and Feeding by BSAVA (British Small Animal Veterinary Association). Lactose cannot be broken down without the enzyme lactase. Dogs who are lactose intolerant may suffer from diarrhoea and/or flatulence when fed milk.
The ASCPA (Animal Poison Control Centre in the USA) has recently published information stating the toxicity of raisins and grapes in dogs. Eating just a handful of raisins and grapes has been shown to cause kidney failure. They do not know why as yet but it might be due to a pesticide sprayed on the grapes, or perhaps a type of mould found on the skin of grapes and raisins.
Most dogs will get a bit of christmas dinner, however bear in mind that if it is more than the occasional scrap, very fatty foods may lead to problems such as pancreatitis. The pancreas releases enzymes to help digest the food. Pancreatitis is a very painful inflammatory condition associated with the ingestion of fatty foods.
Green vegetables are a great way of boosting your dogs immune system. You can feed these raw or cooked. You could even try a piece of raw carrot as a healthy treat. Vegetables are probably better for dogs than fruit. Some fruits are quite acidic (as well as sugary) and may not be good for dogs with skin or digestive complaints. Remember, everything in moderation! You do not want to be clearing up diarrhoea due to too much Christmas pudding!
Unsupervised dogs who have been lucky enough to receive presents, can demolish them playfully, but then swallow the small pieces of plastic causing problems. Stolen presents from under the tree and secretly unwrapped in your dog's favourite hiding place or bed may also cause problems if eaten!
Those of you who have real Christmas trees should watch the dog's feet. The pine needles can stick in or become lodged between the toes or pads of your dog's feet. This is very painful and if undetected may cause infection.