Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Buffetting : Animal Handling 101- Chocolate and Animals

Disclaimer: This is an article written by a veterinary student. All information is based on non-professional interpretation of the student and is not subjected to any responsibilities of the readers' disposal.

Chocolates are close to have drug-induced property; for man who craves and succumbs into the sweetness and heavenly taste the exquisite confectionery offers. From the sweetened to unsweetened dark chocolate, today offering different percentages of sweetness on rack; it is close to impossible for any living man to have not tasted, or indulge in the modern goodness of chocolate.

Constituting an array of organic substances which affects our brain through different biochemical reaction; such as the pheneylethylamine(PEA) and theobromine; man loves chocolate for a reason not because of the sugar content, but PEA which acts on the brain to stimulate a very important neurotransmitter
(endogenous biochemical matter aiding in stimulating neurological effects in the body and brain)- dopamine which elevates the feeling of pleasure in the body. It is unknown if animals, especially companion ones are able to appreciate such indulgence in chocolate, but if you are thinking of sharing your piece of mind of that piece of chocolate with your companion dog or cat; stop it. 


As far as food is concerned, dogs and cats cannot naturally gain access to cocoa fruit, let alone process them in their body. A tiny bit of chocolate off that bar you have gained so much happiness from will be your worst nightmare when they get into the mouth of your furry friends. 

WHY? The mechanism
Chocolate contains a high level of theobromine, a biochemical matter similar to that of caffeine which brings a about the same effect in our body; diuresis- meaning you hit the loo more, better concentration and sometimes ever a higher heart rate. 
courtesy of : dogs and cats

Theobromine, once metabolized by the liver liberate a group of metabolite named methylxanthine; in a series of event leading to increase of free muscle cell calcium level; which induces higher contraction of the heart muscles and skeletal muscles.Apart from that, theobromine will also act on the smooth muscles of our bodies, leading to their relaxation contributing to a relaxed brochi(thoat) as well as renal diuresis(frequent urination).Apart from that, theobromine also competes with endogenous receptors in the brain resulting in higher rate of central nervous system stimulation; which may trigger a higher release of adrenaline and noradrenaline; stacking the effect on increased heart rate and diuresis.

Sounds good? Nope.

courtesy of: modern dog

Methylaxinthine in dogs, unlike in human are not being further metabolized; meaning they stay in the body and will be excreted in the urine as they are; in human methylxanthins are metabolized via CYPA12, absent in dog's and cat's liver, and secreted in the urine as other non-toxic metabolites.

Meaning, dogs have a lower threshold of chocolate toxicity tolerance compared to human. While humans require about 10 to 20g to induce toxicity(about 100 cups of chocolate milk); and ounce of chocolate milk(100mg) can do the job to kill the dog.

The overt concentration of methylxanthine in dogs will cause an overdrive in the CNS stimulation, often leaving the animal in a convulsion(fits) state post emetic episodes- leading to death. The overly stimulated heart ,respiration apparatus and urinary system may also lead to death due to multiple causes including hemorrhage, respiratory alkalosis, dehydration which all leads to death.

If you have suspected the culprit of the nibble on your chocolate bar is not your meddling kids but your furry friends; look out for:
courtesy of : Leo's Pet Care

1- Frequent urination
2- Hyperventilation
3- Vomitting
4- Neurological signs or abnormal behavior
5-Muscle rigidity or spasmic episodes

The right thing to do:
Send your dogs to the vet immediately. Do not attempt to treat your animal because you will only make it worse. In most cases, the vets will try their best to accomplish these goals:

1-Prevent further absorption of the chocolate in the animal. If the animal suspected is pretty recent up to 4 hours of exposure, emetics or gastric lavage maybe attempted. An activated charcoal may also be prescribed to absorb the remaining chocolate residue in the stomach if the exposure goes beyond 4 hours

2- Antidotes are absent in theobromine toxicity; hence a symptomatic treatment approach is usually used. Muscle relaxants such as methocarbamol may be attempted to reduce the muscle hyperactivity in spasm usually to reduce nervous impulse trigger.

3- Supportive treatment such as IV fluids to maintain the hydration status of the dog or cat from the toxicosis episode; as emesis will incur high loss of fluids and water from the body.

The Summary:
Responsible pet ownership does not stop at providing food and shelter and love to the animal. It includes understanding the general physiology of the animal as well as dos and don'ts in making sure the veterinary health of the animal is up to par. Never anthromorphize animals.

Next post: onions and cats.


  1. Thumbs up! Finally I understand why dogs cannot have chocolate. We always hear don't give chocolates to dogs, they cannot eat chocolates, it will kill them but the public have no clue at all on why dogs cannot have something which seems so harmless and tasty. LOL... Good job! And I like the fact that you not only explain the why but you also include the symptoms and signs for pet owners to look out for and what to do if they develop such symptoms.

    1. Part and parcels of the client education! It's pretty important to recognize signs so the toxicity will not progress to the state that the vet can no longer do anything to save the animal. Signs are pretty much everything on first line and emergency veterinary care for diagnosis; because blood test or urine test may not be rapid enough to determine the problem source.

      I think you are like the only person in the blog-o-sphere enjoying this lol

    2. Uiseh! Cepatnya reply comment. Haha... how do you know I'm the only person who like this kind of post? Maybe there are but they are your silent readers who only read but don't comment?

    3. I don't really believe in silent readers one loh~~ If they were to be like people who read, the least they would do is send an email occasionally or something zzz

    4. Trust me... I have zillions of silent readers who only read but don't comment. Hahaha... there's nothing we as bloggers could do.

    5. Sure anot... Don't care la; I blog not for them but for myself also XD

      But all these husbandry is because you saja nak; so its for like fan service trolololol