It’s been a long, crazy day. Finally, you sit down and flip on the TV, and there she is: the Lindor lady. She’s about to “take a moment…to unwrap and unwind with…a milk chocolate shell with a smooth, melting center.” As her eyes close and she bites into the chocolate euphoria, you decide to “take a moment,” too. You dig through your purse until you find… not just one, but two, beautifully wrapped pieces of heaven! Your dog looks up at you as if to say she needs a moment, too. So you decide to share: one for you, one for Fido.
Then you remember: chocolate is toxic to dogs! (Sorry, Fido.)
The harmful ingredients in chocolate, theobromine and caffeine, are present to varying degrees in cocoa powder, both unsweetened and sweetened baking chocolate, dark chocolate, and milk chocolate. According the Merck/Merial Manual for Veterinary Health, “One ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight is a potentially lethal dose in dogs.” Rule of thumb: the darker the chocolate, the more potentially toxic it is. White chocolate, therefore, is not toxic.
Every dog owner should be aware of the human foods that could be harmful or lethal to dogs. In addition to chocolate, there are at least 10 other foods that dogs should never eat:
- Grapes. Grapes, both fresh and dried (raisins), are dangerous to dogs. Ingesting grapes or raisins can cause sudden acute kidney failure.
- Avocados. The leaves, pit, and skin of avocados can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. The culprit is a toxin called persin. The fleshy part of the avocado contains less persin, but it’s still risky for your dog.
- Xylitol. Xylitol is a sugar substitute that is used in candy, gum, baked goods, and some peanut butters—so be a label reader. Dogs are the only species that is harmed by xylitol. It stimulates a rapid release of insulin that can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Signs of this can include vomiting, weakness, seizures, and coma. Xylitol can alsocause liver damage.
- Macadamia nuts. Macadamia nuts are not fatal to dogs, but they can definitely make them sick. Ingesting macadamia nuts can cause vomiting, ataxia (lack of muscle coordination), weakness, tremors, and depression. Macadamia nuts are the only nuts toxic to dogs.
- Raw eggs. Cooked eggs are a healthy snack for dogs. Raw eggs, however, put dogs, like people, at risk for salmonella. Raw eggs also contain an enzyme that prevents dogs from absorbing biotin. Over time, this can result in a biotin deficiency. Biotin is a B vitamin that dogs need for digestion, metabolism, and healthy skin.
- Bread dough. While bread won’t hurt your dog, raw bread dough will. In the stomach, which is warm and moist, yeast grows and ferments. The fermentation creates ethanol, which enters the bloodstream, causing intoxication, central nervous system depression, and sometimes seizures and death.
- Cherries. Cherries are dangerous for dogs, not because of the fleshy part of the fruit, but because the pit, stems, and leaves all contain the poison cyanide. If you suspect your dog has eaten cherries, and you notice that your pet is having trouble breathing, has red gums, and/or dilated pupils, call your vet.
- Ice Cream. This caveat doesn’t apply to all dogs. Believe it or not, some dogs—maybe yours—are lactose intolerant. Like many humans, some dogs lack the enzyme that allows them to digest milk, which is used to make other dairy products such as ice cream, cheese, and yogurt. If your dog is lactose intolerant, milk, ice cream, and other dairy products will cause reactions like diarrhea, vomiting, and loose stools.
- 9. Onions. According to the American Kennel Club, “All parts of the onion plant are toxic to dogs, including the flesh, leaves, juice, and processed powders. Raw or cooked, fried or powdered, onions and the rest of the allium family (garlic, shallots, leeks, and chives) are harmful to dogs.” Eating onions and garlic can break down red blood cells and make dogs anemic. You can learn more at akc.org.
- Cinnamon. While cinnamon isn’t exactly toxic to dogs, eating it can make your dog very uncomfortable. It irritates the inside of the dog’s mouth, lowers blood sugar, and if your dog breathes in cinnamon, it can cause breathing difficulty, coughing, or choking.
If you suspect your dog has ingested chocolate or another toxic substance, call your vet or the Pet Poison Helpline (855-213-6680).