How can chocolates kill dogs

Dogs and chocolate: "Spit out the chocolate, Rocky!"

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The balls are hanging, the fairy lights sparkle, the roast sizzles in the oven: when it comes Christmas Eve in Germany, a dog dozes under the Christmas tree in almost every tenth living room, surrounded by chocolate Santa Clauses, chocolates and gingerbread. It's just stupid when Luna, Kira, Rocky or Spike nibble on the candy plate while everyone is showering, picking up grandma or quickly wrapping a present: Because chocolate is poison for dogs! If they eat it, the result is cramps, restlessness and violent vomiting - in the worst case, chocolate poisoning is fatal.

As British researchers are now reporting, in the United Kingdom, where there are 8.5 million dogs for every 65 million inhabitants, four times as many four-legged friends have to be treated for chocolate poisoning on public holidays than the annual average. The researchers have this worrying number in the specialist magazine in line with the time of year Veterinary Record (Noble et al., 2017) published. The banal cause: In the households in Advent and around the holidays there is simply more sweets around and some people even feed their pet with a Mozartkugel out of ignorance.

Such cases are also not uncommon in Germany, says Barbara Kohn, a small veterinarian at the Clinic for Small Pets at the Free University of Berlin. "Often owners come to us who have observed that their dog has eaten chocolate. If the amount ingested can be large enough to cause symptoms of poisoning, we make the dog vomit. However, this only makes sense if the intake was a few hours ago. If the owners weren't so attentive, things can get very serious. We've also had a chocolate death in our clinic. "

Doping in dog races - dangerous at Christmas

The substance theobromine, a component of the cocoa bean, is to blame for the violent reaction of the dogs. Theobromine has a similar chemical structure to caffeine and also has a similar effect: It increases the heartbeat and stimulates the nervous system, only that dogs show severe symptoms of intoxication even with a small amount.

Because of this invigorating effect, theobromine and caffeine are even used as doping agents in dog racing - in very small doses. How much of it is life-threatening depends on the weight of the animal: Roughly speaking, one can assume that three bars of dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa) can kill a seven-kilo pug. In animal experiments, poisoning with more than one gram of theobromine per kilogram of dog's weight was almost always fatal. The symptoms do not necessarily depend on the dose (Justus Liebig University Gießen: Collica, 2017), but from around 300 milligrams of theobromine per kilogram, owners can expect their animal to get sick, confirms veterinarian Andreas Moritz from the University of Gießen.