If you’re anything like me, then your dog has probably eaten some chocolate at one point or another. You give them treats from time to time, right? And what about those cute little pet bowls filled with peanut butter-flavored jelly how did they get there?! What happens when your dog eats these things, though? Do they cause any problems? Are they harmful? Is it even safe for them?
It turns out that although giving chocolate to dogs might be harmless (depending on the type of chocolate), eating chocolate isn’t always so great for them. In fact, there are plenty of reasons not to share your favorite candy bar with your pooch.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of letting Fido munch away on his own, shall we?
First off, let’s start by talking about exactly what chocolate is. The sweet treat is made up of cocoa beans that grow inside pods belonging to plants native to Central and South America. When harvested, the beans are fermented, dried and ground into a paste called “cocoa powder.”
Cocoa powder contains two major ingredients: fatty acids known as flavonoids and polyphenols. Both of these substances help make chocolate taste sweeter. Flavonoids come from the cacao bean itself, while polyphenols actually derive from the fermentation process.
In addition to being made of cocoa beans, chocolate also contains sugar, vanilla, milk solids, leavening agents such as baking soda and cream, and sometimes other ingredients such as cinnamon or nutmeg. There are all kinds of fun ways to use chocolate, too, whether it’s melted over ice cream or drizzled onto cake frosting. It can also be used in recipes such as brownies, fudge, cookies, pie fillings and cakes.
And speaking of using chocolate in desserts, if you’ve ever had a piece of warm chocolate chip cookie dough, then you know just how addictively delicious that combination of crunchy bits and rich sweetness can be! So, next time you bake some goodies, try making a batch of dog biscuits that incorporate chocolate chips, nuts, raisins and whatever else tickles your fancy. Just don’t go overboard because these tasty morsels will definitely send dogs running back for seconds.
Now that we know what chocolate looks like, let’s talk about what it does in our bodies. We’ll begin with the human body since dogs don’t naturally produce their own cholesterol. Humans secrete an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase which helps digest fat. However, the amount produced varies according to age and gender. This means that children generally need more fats than adults, but that senior citizens shouldn’t have much trouble breaking down calories. As far as chocolate goes, it doesn’t contain very much fat. It’s mostly composed of sugars and proteins.
But what about dogs? They lack the ability to manufacture enzymes, so they must rely on what comes within their stomachs. Unfortunately, dogs aren’t able to properly break down everything that goes in their mouth. That’s where digestive disorders come in.
For instance, certain dogs experience gastric reflux disease, which causes old, undigested food to travel backward through the esophagus and into the stomach. If left untreated, this condition may eventually lead to scar tissue buildup and cancerous growths.
So, what does this mean for our canine friends who eat chocolate? Well, it means that if they ingest large amounts of unprocessed foods such as raw meat, dairy products and fruits, they could end up getting sick. On top of that, chocolate triggers acid reflux in both cats and dogs, causing the lower part of the esophagus to swell up. That’s why vets recommend keeping chocolate consumption to a minimum and avoiding high-fat meals altogether.
Another potential problem that stems from chocolate consumption is pancreatitis. Pancreatic fluid secretions become blocked in the pancreas and form a painful inflammation. Because dogs’ saliva is acidic, any sort of alkaline substance (such as that found in chocolate) can trigger pancreatitis. Dogs that suffer from diabetes or hyperthyroidism should avoid consuming chocolate, too. Eating chocolate can also result in intestinal blockages and infections.
With all of these health hazards in mind, it’s clear that dogs shouldn’t consume large quantities of chocolate alone. Instead, experts suggest mixing it with something low-calorie and nutritious (like yogurt) and serving it once or twice daily.
There are a lot of opinions on the subject, but most veterinarians agree that feeding chocolate to dogs isn’t a good idea. In her book “Pet First Aid,” Dr. Karen Becker states, “I feel strongly that no animal needs chocolate or any other sugary product…because it promotes tooth decay, obesity, increased risk of infection and gastrointestinal upset.” She adds that “most animals seem to love the sensation of chewing, but the actual nutritional value is minimal”.
What’s the Harm in Giving Your Pet Some Chocolate?
Despite the overwhelming consensus among veterinarians, most pet owners still allow their dogs to partake in small doses of chocolate. After all, it tastes pretty darn good. Still, it’s important to remember that there are several different types of chocolate that differ greatly in terms of quality. To determine the best choice for your dog, consider purchasing only organic brands.
Organic chocolate is grown without pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers. Also, check labels carefully to see if the chocolate was processed with whole chocolate liquor. Whole chocolate liquor contains 100 percent pure cocoa mass, while non-organic chocolate is often made with roasted nibs instead. If your dog enjoys drinking hot chocolate, try adding a dash of cayenne pepper to create a unique flavor.
Just like humans, dogs can develop cavities. Unlike us, however, they typically don’t care for dental floss or toothbrushes. This means that your pupperinos should be kept under regular supervision when they’re eating chocolate. Make sure to keep any leftover pieces stored in airtight containers or wrappers. Also, pay close attention to signs of gum irritation or discomfort. If your pup starts exhibiting symptoms such as loose teeth, excessive drooling or foul breath, immediately call the vet.
Although chocolate may sound like a healthy snack for humans, its effects on dogs can vary widely depending upon the breed. Smaller breeds tend to respond well to higher concentrations of chocolate, whereas larger ones may not be so lucky. Before giving your pooch some chocolate, consult your veterinarian to see how he responds to various dosages. Be sure to review all safety guidelines listed above before chowing down on any kind of chocolate confection.
Many people incorrectly believe that chocolate is dangerous for dogs, especially considering it’s been linked to heart problems in humans. However, scientists say that there’s nothing wrong with the occasional bite of dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains a compound called epicatechin, which research suggests may reduce blood pressure and improve cardiovascular function.