You’ve probably heard it before… don’t give chocolate to your dogs because it’s bad for them. Well, with Valentine’s Day coming up, I thought I’d explore that statement in more depth.
Chocolate is made from the fruit (bean) of the tropical cacao tree. It goes through an extensive process to turn the bitter bean into the smooth, yummy chocolate we all love. All chocolate is made essentially of cocoa liquor (the liquefied cocoa) and cocoa butter extracted from the bean. Much of the commercial chocolates also contain sugar and sometimes milk, milk powder and vanilla. There are several substances that occur naturally in cocoa, including caffeine and theobromine, known as alkaloids. It is the theobromine that makes cocoa toxic to animals, particularly dogs, horses and cats.
Unlike humans, dogs’ systems cannot metabolize the theobromine present in chocolate, it is absorbed into the bloodstream and remains present for much longer (up to 20 hours). Small amounts of theobromine can cause vomiting, diarrhea, excessive urination, thirst and nervousness. At higher levels the animal may experience muscle spasms, seizures and even death.
How much chocolate is dangerous? Well, that depends on several factors including the type of chocolate ingested, and the size of the dog.
Chocolate comes in several forms, varying in the amount of cocoa. Usually the darker the chocolate the more cocoa it contains, which means more theobromine.
contains an insignificant source of theobromine since it is made of cocoa butter and milk and sugar, but no cocoa liquor.
Milk Chocolate = 44-64 mg of theobromine per ounce
Semisweet or Dark Chocolate = 150-160 mg/oz
Unsweetened Baking Chocolate = 450 mg/oz
Dry Cocoa Powder = 800 mg/oz
So as you can see, the darker the chocolate, the more poisonous it is to dogs. The size of the animal also contributes to the amount of toxicity. The toxic dose of theobromine is considered to be approx. 100-200mg for every 2.2 pounds of body weight. However, the ASPCA has noted problems at doses as low as 20 mg for every 2.2 pounds of body weight.
Now that you are totally confused, here is an easy way to gauge how much chocolate is poisonous to your dog.
Toxic Amounts of Chocolate:
White Chocolate: generally safe
Milk Chocolate: 1 oz. per pound of body weight
Semisweet or Dark Chocolate: 1 oz. per 3 pounds of body weight
Unsweetened Baking Chocolate: 1 oz. per 9 lbs. of body weight
A typical candy bar is 2-3 ounces. Therefore a 50 pound dog may be able to eat a few milk chocolate bars without much upset, but one square of baking chocolate could kill a Chihuahua or small dog.
Each dog is different and many dogs experience problems at much lower levels than this, this is only a guide. The best advice is to keep all chocolate away from your dogs at all times. Though a few M&M’s or a stray chocolate chip on the floor might not be a problem, once your dog gets a taste of chocolate they will want more and it may be hard to keep them away from it. So keep all chocolate out of reach and in sealed containers to be safe.
Symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs include excitement, nervousness, trembling, vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive thirst and/or urination. If you notice any of these symptoms within 12 hours after ingestion of chocolate, contact your vet immediately. If you cannot reach your vet, contact a local emergency veterinary clinic . Use the link to the left to contact the Pet Poison Helpline for assistance. Treatment by a vet may include IV fluids, inducing vomiting, activated charcoal, anti-seizure medications, or cardiac medications.
An interesting side note: Ever hear of cocoa bean mulch used in gardens? Apparently it is a good choice for a garden mulch, it is made from cocoa bean shells. However, many people report that this mulch is potentially dangerous to dogs because it contains a high amount of cocoa and thus a high amount of theobromine. There have been reports of dogs eating the mulch in large amounts resulting in death. The toxicity of the mulch has not really been proven, but you might want to choose a different type of mulch to use if you own dogs. As they say, better safe than sorry.
By the way, chocolate is just as dangerous to cats, but due to their eating habits and less of a “sweet tooth” they normally aren’t overly interested in chocolate.
The Pet Poison Helpline reports that chocolate poisoning is the number one type of poisoning they receive calls about. So this Valentine’s Day, keep some yummy dog treats handy and keep the chocolate safely tucked away from your canine companion.
Healthy oral hygiene is important for our pet for multiple reasons. Clean teeth are not only cosmetically pleasing; they also promote good smelling breath and better long-term health.
If poor oral health causes an infection in our pet’s teeth or gums, it can spread to their kidneys. This is especially true in cats. Older cats often suffer from kidney failure, which can be caused by an oral infection spreading to kidneys. Valvular heart disease can also be caused by poor dental hygiene. Bacteria from a pet’s mouth can travel to its heart valves, causing them to change shape and become leaky.
Original article by Marybeth Bittel, Tails Magazine
When I was a young music student growing up in Chicago’s western suburbs, my family adopted an Airedale puppy we named Beethoven. I picked Beethoven out at the shelter because all the other puppies rushed forward to greet me, while he hid shyly in the corner. Most trainers agree that’s not necessarily the ideal benchmark for selecting a furry friend, but we got lucky. Beethoven matured into an outgoing, even-tempered, fun, and affectionate family member who sternly guarded our front yard one minute, and romped through our sprinkler the next.
But then came the Fourth of July. Fireworks went off at random intervals around the clock. We discovered that when it came to loud noises and ear-popping explosions, Beethoven was absolutely terrified.
At first we wondered how this could have happened. After all, we’d never left our beloved boy outside while pyrotechnics peppered the sky. He hadn’t been exposed to extreme noises as a puppy. In all likelihood, Beethoven’s fireworks aversion, like so many pet fears and phobias, was just one of those things that took hold when his sensitive hearing encountered a sudden trigger he could neither see nor anticipate.
So we did what numerous pet parents do when their cherished companion is struggling: we cuddled him, coddled him, and cooed comforting words of reassurance. We also sat, feeling helpless, watching him cower and hide as the problem held steady each year. In fact, through all the years of Beethoven’s life, he never overcame this disabling sense of distress, no matter how soothing or supportive we attempted to make his surrounding environment.
When my husband and I began working with abused rescue dogs, we noticed that most arrived with an array of deep-rooted anxieties acquired over time. One Bichon was terrified of rotary fans. A Shih Tzu mix became a jittery mess during thunderstorms. A sweet and docile Foxhound routinely hid from houseplants. These fears ran the gamut, but they had one thing in common: They were exceedingly real to the dog, and they had a great impacts on the entire family.
We began working with local animal behaviorists, and that’s when we learned an invaluable truth: The way we, as caregivers, react to our pet’s anxieties can actually perpetuate the patterns.
Why would this be? As Abe Mashal, owner of Marine Corps Dog Training in St. Charles, explains, “Dogs form extremely solid bonds with their humans. That means most canines are highly attuned to any type of interaction with their human ‘pack’ members.” So when something a dog is doing earns our attention—whether that attention takes the form of praise, pampering, or peevish irritation— the behavior is often unintentionally reinforced.
“Reinforcement,” a common term in the world of animal behavioral training, is really just another word for strengthening. In reality, a reinforcer can be anything that strengthens a behavior.
So for those of you thinking, “I never reinforce my dog’s non-stop barking! I scold her on the spot,” see if these examples sound familiar:
“Every interaction with your dog has the potential to teach and reinforce, merely because you’re paying attention,” explains Sara Swan, owner of Narnia Pet Behavior & Training in Plainfield. How can you tell if this is happening? Simply observe over time. Dogs continue to engage in behaviors that provide some sort of payoff. If you’re dealing with a fear or anxiety response that’s ongoing—such as Beethoven’s abhorrence of fireworks—some kind of inducement is likely contributing to the pattern. In Beethoven’s case, his reactions earned him almost round-the-clock nurturing.
Fortunately, we as dog parents can leverage these same dynamics when it comes to re-programming undesirable behaviors. Let’s say your 80-pound “lap dog” excitedly jumps on you whenever you come home from work. When you withhold the coveted attention—immediately going back out the door, or turning your back on him—many pups gradually begin to seek out a different behavior.
The same thing can work with a fear response. If your pet is terrified of your Swiffer mop, for example, try propping it against the family room couch and just leaving it there. Then, simply act like it’s no big deal and go about your daily routine, even if your pup exhibits an unsettled reaction. Very gradually, over time, as your furry friend begins to approach the mop with quiet but tentative curiosity, reward that calm behavior with brief praise or a small treat. Keep it up, and eventually your dog can learn that “mop = calm = good.”
Helping your dog manage his stress is one of the keys to having a happy and healthy pet. If your animal companion has specific challenges beyond what you’re comfortable handling, always reach out to a certified animal behaviorist who can help you develop targeted interventional techniques that will work on your pet’s unique needs. It will not only help with unwanted behaviors, but strengthen your bond, as well.
Safe, Drug Free Ways To Soothe Your Pet’s Stress
The Thundershirt. The ThunderShirt leverages the age-old principle of swaddling an infant to promote calming reassurance. Simply fasten this snug, stretchy shirt around your pet’s ribcage. During anxious episodes of panting or hyperventilation, it provides ongoing sensory feedback that suppresses this common panic response. ( Thundershirt.com )
Music or ASMR. As a musician, I can attest firsthand that deep, resonant tones often work wonders on a nervous pup. You can also try leveraging something called ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response), which is promoted by many hypnotists and human sleep therapists. ASMR is a subjective, perceptual phenomenon characterized by a distinct calming or scalp- tingling sensation in response to quiet, seemingly mundane sound triggers. Certain pets appear especially receptive, and may even be lulled to sleep. To gauge effectiveness, try playing low, calming music or ASMR audio with your dog in the room. Use a meditation CD, or visit YouTube to access ASMR recordings by reputable “ASMRtists” such as The Waterwhispers.
Calming Sprays. Help create a relaxing environment for your pet by using a calming spray on their bedding or by plugging in a calming spray diffuser. Many cats and dogs experience reduced anxiety and stress after being exposed to these non- sedating sprays, which use soothing scents such as lemongrass, cinnamon, and lavender to encourage relaxation.