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PET SAFETY MONTH: 30 tips in 30 days that can save your pet's life - Tip #22

Chocolate. On the miniscule chance that there is anything left of your chocolate Easter Bunny or her eggs, please put them far from pup's reach. Yeah, they should be out of my reach, too, but that's for caloric reasons. For pup, chocolate is poison.

So why will pup, like me, move heaven and earth for chocolate and why can it cause severe harm - really severe harm to the point of death - for pup. And are all chocolates created equal?

Why is chocolate so tempting? It's sweet! Like us, dogs are omnivores. Their tongues have sweet receptors which tell them that fruit is ripe and at its peak of nutrition as well as the peak time nature wants that fruit to be eaten for its seeds to be spread. Kitty owners, fear not. Cats are obligate carnivores and do not have sweet receptors on their tongues so are not drawn to chocolate and other confections like pups and we are.

Why is chocolate potentially poisonous to pups? The "love" component of chocolate is theobromine which gives us humans a slight high but is not metabolized but pups but, rather, is a neurotoxin. Ooops! Hopefully you catch pup before his dining experience gets too far and you call Poison Control who will help you calculate the seriousness of your situation and will coach you through handling it.

ASPCA Poison Control (24/7/365): 888-426-4435

What are the symptoms when pup has dined on your chocolate? Vomiting and diarrhea, increased thirst, panting or restlessness, excessive urination, and a racing heart rate. In severe cases, muscle tremors, seizures, and heart failure. In older pets that eat a large amount of high quality dark or baking chocolate, sudden death from cardiac arrest may occur, especially in dogs with preexisting heart disease. Are all chocolates created equal? Are all dogs created equal? The answer to both is NO, For chocolate it depends on the amount of *theobromine* which is a component of cocoa. Dark chocolate will have more per ounce than milk chocolate which is diluted with, yes, milk. White chocolate has little or no cocoa and thus little or no theobromine. Since colored chocolates are white chocolate with food coloring, those don't present a serious risk either. They are high in fat and sugar, neither of which is great for pup's diet but that's a different conversation.

As far as all dogs being created equal, obviously if a 200 lb Mastiff and a Maltese have the identical chocolate egg, the Maltese will have a much larger problem being a much smaller dog.

Do you think "maybe?" Call Poison Control. It's always worth $65 to have a professional help you know for sure.

Ah, something so delicious can be such a problem. Just be one step ahead of pup and all will be fine.

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