Halloween is just around the corner, and that means costumes, spooky decorations, and candy.
I might not like the spooky side of Halloween, but I know I’m not the only one who loves candy. I love Sour Patch Kids, Twizzlers, anything chocolate and peanut butter flavored, and did I mention Sour Patch Kids?
Do you know who else loves candy? Dogs, and they especially love chocolate. But why, if the chocolate is so tasty is it so dangerous for them and not for us?
First of all, it is important to understand that there are different types of chocolate. The different types of chocolate play an important role in our understanding of their different levels of toxicity.
The different forms of chocolate include baking chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, or cocoa powder. Each of these types of chocolate has different compositions of chocolate liquor.
Chocolate liquor is highest in unsweetened baking chocolate, followed by dark chocolate and milk chocolate. Cocoa powder is what is left over after removing the cocoa butter from the chocolate liquor. The concentration of chocolate liquor is important because it is what contains chemicals that are toxic to dogs.
Chocolate contains a chemical class known as methylxanthines. The methylxanthines in chocolate are theobromine and caffeine.
The effects of caffeine are slower and those of theobromine are much longer. Theobromine causes hyperactivity, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures, rapid heartbeat and arrhythmias, and can be fatal. The higher the concentration of chocolate liquor, the higher the concentration of theobromine.
When dogs eat chocolate in baked goods, such as brownies or cakes, the problem is often the fat content of the sweet treat, not the baking chocolate used. When our pets have a high fat meal, they can develop vomiting and diarrhea, which can sometimes lead to pancreatitis.
However, when dogs eat candy; the higher the chocolate liquor content, the more symptoms they can experience and these symptoms can last up to four days.
If you know that your pet has ingested chocolate, it is important to collect the following information: the type of chocolate, the concentration, the amount ingested and the weight of your animal.
You should then contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA poison control helpline. Your pet may need induced vomiting, administered adsorbent, and potentially sedation, fluids, and medication if there is an arrhythmia.
So how can we make Halloween safe for our pets? By keeping chocolate candies and pastries out of their reach!
Danielle Carey, doctor of veterinary medicine, is an associate veterinarian at the Walla Walla Animal Clinic. Contact her at 509-525-6111.