The reason why dogs can’t eat chocolate?

If you have got a dog, you’ve most likely heard that chocolate can make your pet sick. And that
additionally applies to other pets, like cats, rats, and mice. However, that just doesn’t seem fair. Why
do we get to go to town on a large bar of chocolate, but, Fido shouldn’t even have one bite?
It all has to do with a molecule called theobromine, which is made up of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen,
and oxygen atoms, and, along with its partner caffeine, is one of many reasons humans have loved
chocolate for thousands of years. Both molecules are dangerous for dogs, however, chocolate
contains tons of additional theobromine than it does caffeine, so it’s the molecule to watch out for.
Like caffeine, theobromine is a type of alkaloid, which is a huge class of molecules that generally
contain rings with at least one nitrogen atom in them.
And alkaloids often have physiological effects on humans and other animals. Also like caffeine,
theobromine makes our hearts pump faster, our blood vessels dilate, and some of our muscles get
more energy, which sounds great! But too much of it can make our hearts pump too quickly and our
muscles contract uncontrollably, eventually leading to nausea, convulsions, heart attack, and even
death. Luckily for our taste buds, we humans process theobromine pretty quickly, so that’s not
something you have to worry about. It rarely sticks around for long enough to cause any harm. But
our pets aren’t so lucky: They process theobromine a lot more slowly, so it can easily build up and
cause those dangerous effects. It’s hard to know exactly why we evolved to be better at digesting
theobromine, but it might be because alkaloids mostly come from plants, and our ancestors ate a lot
more plants than early cats and dogs did.
Whatever the reason, the same amount of theobromine stays in pets’ bodies much longer, giving it
more time to pile up and cause harm. On top of that, most pets are a lot lighter than humans, so it
doesn’t take much chocolate to make them sick. Cats don’t usually get poisoned from chocolate
because they can’t taste sweet things. So they’re generally not too interested in it. But dogs sure are!
Your average adult human would need to eat about eight kilograms of dark chocolate to get a lethal
dose of theobromine, but a medium-sized dog would only need to eat about one kilogram, and a
house cat would need only a tenth of a kilogram. Sweeter chocolates have less theobromine, so the
lethal dose is higher: about five kilograms of milk chocolate for dogs and about a third of a kilogram
for cats. But they’d be sick long before feeding that much.
Meanwhile, you and I would have to eat about half of our body weight in milk chocolate for a lethal
dose. Which might sound wonderful, but I don’t want to see any of you writing “challenge accepted”
in the comments, because you’d be very sick way before finishing that much chocolate. Among other
things, I’m trying very hard not to picture what it would do to your digestive system. But the next
time you decide to indulge in a chocolate bar or three, just keep it to yourself, no matter how long
your dog gives you those adorable puppy eyes.


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Stop doing this to your dog

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