Dogs are brilliant opportunists. Leave that last remaining sliver of brie on the coffee table while you see your guests to the door and it is likely to be gone when you return.
Unattended clam dip, meatballs, even fruit and vegetable chunks – all party foods may be seen as tasty tidbits by your canine family members. In most cases, an unhappy tummy is the only result of such stealthy snacks. With certain people foods, however – notably that Halloween favorite, chocolate – the consequences can be serious.
Theobromine is the offending compound in chocolate, a stimulant that occurs naturally in cocoa beans. (Dog guardians would be wise to avoid using cocoa shell mulch in their gardens, as it, too, can contain this toxin.) Theobromine levels are highest in unsweetened (dark) chocolate, a bit lower in milk chocolate, and lower still in white chocolate.
Although the extent of the danger depends on the type of chocolate, the size and health status of the dog, and the amount ingested, obviously a zero tolerance policy is best. Keep any chocolate treats out of reach and watch them and your dog closely.
Dogs with chocolate poisoning may exhibit any or all of the following symptoms:
- Unusual nervousness or trembling;
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea;
- Excessive thirst;
- Muscle spasms;
- Seizures; and
If you suspect that your dog has ingested chocolate, in any amount, call your vet. If your vet’s office is unavailable, call the ASPCA’s animal poison control hotline at 888-426-4435 for expert advice. This hotline is open 24/7 every day of the year.