So, why is chocolate so bad for dogs?
It turns out that it all comes down to biochemistry. The problem with dogs and chocolate stems from two facts:
- Dogs love chocolate because they have a sweet tooth
- Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine
Theobromine is a chemical compound that is metabolised (i.e. changed) into a chemical called xanthine in the dog’s liver. Xanthine is bad for dogs. Why? Because xanthine interferes with very important phosphodiesterase inhibitors (a special class of cell enzymes), leading to:
- increased heart rate
- increased central nervous system activity
Left unchecked, this increased heart rate or the overload of activity in a dog’s brain can be deadly.
Left unchecked the increased heart rate or the overload of activity in a dog’s brain can be deadly.
The dog’s excessive vomiting, urination, and diarrhoea after eating chocolate is actually a safety mechanism to try and purge the its body of the toxic buildup. This also explains why coffee is bad for dogs, as the biological breakdown of caffeine produces theobromine as well.
This also explains why coffee is bad for dogs, as the biological breakdown of caffeine produces theobromine as well.
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You might be wondering: why is chocolate bad for dogs, but not for humans?
Well, believe it or not, theobromine, and therefore chocolate, is actually toxic to humans as well. The major difference between dogs and humans is that humans can metabolise or breakdown the theobromine at a much faster rate. To put this into perspective, a dog weighing 9kg needs to consume about 500g of milk chocolate to reach a lethal dose.
To put this into perspective, a dog weighing 9kg needs to consume about 500g of milk chocolate to reach a lethal dose.
Doing some rough maths, say a human weighs about 68kg (10 stone, 9 pounds). Considering the fact that humans are 500% more tolerant to theobromine than a dog, one would need to consume about 20kg (3 stone, 2 pounds) of chocolate in 24 hours to reach lethal levels. (Note: this calculation also assumes you can eat all of the chocolate without vomiting!)
In conclusion, when it comes to dogs and chocolate, you’re better to be safe than sorry. Dog owners and dog sitters shouldn’t even let the doggies have a nibble. As for yourself—go ahead and devour that chocolate bar. Just don’t eat a hundred of them.