What a Vet Tech College Grad Will Tell You About Chocolates and Pets

July 8th, 2011 by rebeccac

So you want to go to vet tech school? It’s a great career, and there’s so much that people don’t know about their pets.

For instance, many people know that while chocolate may be a treat for them, it’s definitely not a treat for their dogs. In fact, chocolate can be life-threatening, as any veterinary technician school graduate will tell you. But how many people know why it’s so dangerous?

Chocolate contains fats, sugar, carbohydrates, proteins and approximately 800 chemical compounds, one of which is the alkaloid theobromine. In fact, chocolate’s botanical name is Theobroma cacao.

Among humans, theobromine is generally not toxic except at very high doses. Theobromine is a central nervous system stimulant that affects the brain and the heart. Theobromine actually has medical uses: It’s used as a vasodilator, a diuretic and a heart stimulant.

But courses at a veterinary technician college can teach you that dogs digest theobromine more slowly. Theobromine poisoning can occur in dogs from a dose as low as five grams in a small dog and 40 grams in a larger dog.

Vet tech college graduates are trained to diagnose the initial symptoms of chocolate-related theobromine ingestion in dogs, like vomiting, diarrhea and extreme restlessness, related to theobromine’s properties as a stimulant. He also may be urinating more frequently than usual due to theobromine’s properties as a diuretic. You may notice excessive panting and twitching muscles. If you could listen to your dog’s heart, you’d hear that it was beating much more rapidly than usual.

Left untreated over time, this chocolate overdose could lead to hyperthermia, seizures, coma and even death.

How much is too much? That varies with the age of your dog, the weight of your dog and whether he or she is in shape. If a 50-pound dog steals a bite from your Snickers bar, chances are he’s not going to get sick.

The problem, as graduates of a veterinary technician school can tell you, is that chocolate has addictive properties: When you give your dog a chocolate treat, it leaves him wanting more. Then, when your back is turned, he’ll go for that entire box of Godiva truffles on the kitchen counter. That’s when he gets into trouble.

It’s not just the characteristics of your dog that determine whether or not he’ll get sick from chocolate; it’s also the characteristics of the chocolate itself. Some types of chocolate have more theobromine than others. For example, milk chocolate has much less theobromine than semi-sweet baking chocolate. What determines whether your dog gets sick or not is the quantity of theobromine he consumes in proportion to his weight.

If Fido does ingest a dangerous amount of chocolate, you’ll want to get him to a veterinarian as quickly as possible.

As a graduate of a veterinary technician college, one of your roles is education in the community at large. Sharing what you know is not only a neighborly thing to do, it can also create business for your place of work since people naturally want to bring their beloved animals to someone they already trust. Vet tech school can lead to a rewarding career for those individuals who love animals – their own and other people’s as well!

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