There are few things as universally loved as chocolate and dogs…but there are few that go together less well than those two things. Anthropologists disagree how long ago dogs first began to live alongside man, with dates ranging from 14,200 to 36,000 years. Either way, dogs have been a part of our world for much longer than chocolate, for which the oldest recorded human use is only 3,400 years ago. Personally, i cannot imagine a life without either in it! In about 350BC, the ancient people of South America worshipped Quetzalcoatl, the god of wisdom, who it was believed bestowed upon them the gift of the cacao seed which were used to make a drink called xocoati, the origin of the word chocolate. The Latin name of the cacao tree is Theobroma cacao, literally “the food of the gods”, and from which comes the name of the active ingredient theobromine. Theobromine is chemically similar to caffeine, the worlds most used psychoactive (and addictive) agent. Having too much of either is not a good idea because both can have severe side effects. Similar, although not identical, theobromine toxicity can lead to a simple tummy upset (at low doses), through to tremors and neurological disturbances, right up to coma and death (at high doses). One of the major problems is that not only do different types of chocolate contain different amounts of theobromine, but different formulations release the theobromine at different speeds. Theobromine concentrations are not printed on chocolate packaging. As a rule of thumb, dark is worse than milk, and cocoa is worse than solid. A 20kg dog could potentially be made sick by as little as 120g of milk chocolate or 10g of cocoa!
The best approach, therefore, is one of caution; contact your vet if your dog has consumed ANY chocolate. Knowing how much, and what type will help us to decide what first aid we need to give (if any). Given that the Easter Bunny may soon be visiting, please please PLEASE make sure that you search the garden thoroughly. If you don’t find all of the eggs, there’s a good chance your dog will. This is definitely one of those occasions where it’s ok not to share!