Holidays are upon us: hide the chocolate!

This week’s coinciding religious celebrations brought certain business to a stand still while racheting up others. Perhaps at no other time in the year were so many chocolate bunnies, coins and eggs, sold and eaten in one three-day period. Whether your ritual hides eggs or matzoh, the general reward for either is a large douse of chocolate in a variety of forms, and while that is celebratory for children (and many adults), it is something that could be potentially deadly to a dog. Before you panic and induce your 100-pound Golden Retriever to vomit up an M& M, read this article to understand how much and what type of chocolate poses a real threat.

First, let me start by saying that holidays, regardless of what is ingested, are stressful times that require a mindful effort to attend to the needs of our dependents. Just because you are rushing to fulfill your holiday checklist does not mean that your dog or child will be any less needy. In fact, our stress pushes them to cling more. Often our distraction results in a host of attention-getting rituals that rarely jive with our timetable. Children are more accident-prone, whinny or delinquent; dogs are more impulsive and pushy. Such is life.

When impulsivity mounts, a dog generally has few other outlets than to steal and scavenge. The first inclination is to mirror your activity, pilfering items held in recent possession. Unlike cats, who will “consider” the source before ingestion, a dog will generally eat first and suffer the consequences. Chocolate, though never savored in a canine’s mouth, is often devoured if it is left out.

Now the question comes down to what is in chocolate that causes a reaction, and how much is dangerous. Is eating a Kit Kat bar, for example, as dangerous as eating a pound of Bakers Chocolate? The short answer is no, but here is why.

Dogs are allergic to the drug “theobromide” found in the cocoa bean used to make chocolate. In concentrated form, even small doses are deadly. The dilution of the cocoa bean used in the formulation of milk chocolate, drink mixes and white chocolate, limits its effect quite considerably.

If your dog ingests chocolate, quickly gage the amount and the type in relation to their size. If it is even near the “toxic” level, induce vomiting. I use hydrogen peroxide to sthis end, although speak to your veterinarian to hear his suggestion and discuss the proper dose for your individual pet.

Symptoms of poisoning include rapid breathing and increased heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, urinary incontinence, seizure or coma, and the effects may be draw out as the effects of the drug are protracted.

Of course, prevention is worth 10 pounds of cure. Especially if those pounds are weighed in chocolate.

Sarah Hodgson has trained dogs in Westchester for over 20 years and published many books on this subject, including Puppies for Dummies and Dog Perfect.