CHOCOLATE AND BONES:
TWO SERIOUS DANGERS FOR YOUR DOG

Warning! Before you succumb to your dog's soft, pleading eyes as he begs for a bite of your chocolate treat or a few bones from the table, be warned that both chocolate and bones can be harmful to your pet. In fact, eating chocolate can be fatal for a dog depending on the animal's size and the amount and type of chocolate he ingests. And, bone splinters can become lodged in a pet's throat and intestinal tract.

Chocolate - Chocolate contains a substance known as theobromine, a bitter, caffeine-related alkaloid, which can have dangerous effects on the dog who eats chocolate. The dog can fall victim to a theobromine-caused condition called chocolate toxicosis -- and could be dead within hours.

The effects of theobromine on dogs depend on their size and the quantity of chocolate eaten. It also depends on the type of chocolate because each type contains different levels of this chemical. For instance, unsweetened chocolate, such as that used for baking, contains much higher concentrates of it than does milk chocolate. A small dog weighing 5 - 20 pounds may die from ingesting 4 - 16 ounces of milk chocolate or ? - 2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate. Larger dogs may be able to tolerate higher amounts of chocolate. For example, a dog weighing 20 - 40 pounds may be endangered by eating 1 - 2 pounds of milk chocolate or 2 - 4 ounces of unsweetened chocolate, while dogs weighing more than 40 pounds tend to be affected by ingesting 2 pounds or more of milk chocolate or 4 ounces or more of the unsweetened. Be warned, however, that these are mere estimates that will vary from dog to dog.

The safest rule of thumb is to keep all chocolate out of dogs' reach.

Nevertheless, accidents can happen. A dog can stumble upon and devour an entire box of holiday candy while his owners are away, or he may snatch a few chocolates from a bowl on the living room coffee table before anyone realizes what he has done. A child may share a candy bar or a handful of Halloween candy with the family pet, or the dog may lick up spilled baking chocolate off the floor while the family is baking cookies. Regardless of how the accident may occur, a dog can ingest a sizable amount of chocolate before anyone can stop him. He may suddenly become ill, and no one knows why. Who would ever suspect something as wonderful as chocolate could be to blame?

In such cases, chocolate is to blame, and if help is not sought immediately, the animal may die. Signs of chocolate toxicosis arise within hours after the dog ingests the chocolate and are similar to those that accompany many gastrointestinal conditions. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, heavy breathing, an increased heart rate, muscle tremors, seizures, lack of bladder control, and, in the most severe toxicity cases, coma. These blatant indicators that something is wrong with your dog require prompt veterinary attention.

The speed with which veterinary treatment is sought will also determine how the veterinarian will handle the patient. If you know for a fact that the dog ingested chocolate recently, the veterinarian may induce the dog to vomit to prevent further absorption of theobromine into the animal's system. If several hours have passed since the dog ate the chocolate, the absorption process has already begun, and the veterinarian will probably administer activated charcoal to help remove the toxin from the animal's system. Treatment can be expensive and may not work.

Before an accident occurs the entire household needs to be aware of the consequences of feeding chocolate to the dog and know to keep all chocolate out of his reach.

Adapted from an article written by Betsy S. Siino for Dogs USA 1991 Annual

Bones - It is a common misconception that dogs need bones for either the calcium contained in them or to remove tartar from their teeth. Dogs receive a sufficient amount of calcium in their diets if fed good quality dog foods.

There are several reasons why you should never give your dog bones. A bone can be extremely damaging to the dog's intestinal tract; he may become very ill -- maybe even die because of complications from chewing and ingesting bones.

When a dog is chewing a bone, he may break off small pieces and swallow them. Often, especially with chicken and pork bones, they will splinter and the dog will swallow the razor sharp splinters. The splinters may pierce the intestinal wall and pass into the abdominal cavity, which in turn causes hemorrhaging of the intestinal wall and peritonitis (infection of the lining of the abdominal cavity). This situation would very likely kill your dog.

It is also possible for a portion of the undigested bone to become impacted in the intestines causing a blockage in the dog's digestive system. The blockage prevents gases and other material from escaping and leads to blood toxicity. This is especially prevalent in older dogs since diminished intestinal motility leads to increased digestive complications. A blockage, if not caught in time, may also be fatal to your dog.

Symptoms of possible damage to the intestinal tract include vomiting, rectal bleeding, liquid discharge from the rectum, diarrhea, straining to defecate, and extreme sensitivity to palpation of the abdomen. If your dog has ingested bones recently and shows any of the above symptoms, your dog's veterinarian should be contacted immediately. Some times a dog will get hollow bones caught on his canine teeth or around the lower jaw. These bones have to be removed by a veterinarian, usually under sedation.

Dogs do have a need to chew, and there are many safe toys available for this purpose. These toys include Nyla-bones ®, Nyla-floss®, hard rubber chew toys and, on occasion, rawhide chews. (Proper supervision is necessary when giving rawhide to ensure the dog does not swallow large pieces.) Any item you give your dog to chew on must be gauged according to the dog's size, jaw strength and chewing habits.

Remember, never give your dog chocolate or bones! Either can be fatal to your dog!

 

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