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Why Is Chocolate Bad for Dogs?

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I grew up with a series of dogs that were shameless food moochers. Max, our German Shepherd-Black Lab mix, was once left on his own in the house while the humans were having a backyard cookout. Poor Aunt Sophie went in to get something from the kitchen and found Max standing on the kitchen table, working his way in a circle around the top of her homemade bundt cake. Needless to say, the utmost precaution had to be taken with certain foods the dogs couldn’t have. Chocolate bars were transported under the cover of darkness and consumed only when a room had been cleared and locked down.

Why the trouble? Chocolate is toxic to dogs and a number of other animals because it contains alkaloid chemicals called methylxanthines - namely, theobromine (3,7-dimethylxanthine) and caffeine (1,3,7-trimethylxanthine). Both of these stimulate the nervous and cardiovascular systems. It’s an effect that humans seek out, and we can get away with it because we metabolize the chemicals relatively quickly. Other animals process them more slowly, so the effects are more pronounced.

If a dog eats too much theobromine and caffeine, they’ll start to show a number of symptoms, including diarrhea, vomiting, muscle spasms, excessive panting, hyperactive behavior, seizures and dehydration. They may become hyperthermic, go into respiratory failure or experience cardiac arrhythmia, all of which can cause death.

So, how much chocolate is too much for a dog? Depends on the size of the dog, and the kind of chocolate. The amount of methylxanthines in chocolate varies among different chocolate products and brands. In general, though, dry cocoa powder has the most, with around 800 milligrams per ounce, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual. Unsweetened baker’s chocolate (~450 mg/oz), semisweet and sweet dark chocolate (~150-160 mg/oz) and milk chocolate (~64 mg/oz) follow.

Based on their experience and research, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center considers 100 to 200 milligrams of methylxanthines per kilogram of dog to be a lethal dose. Mild symptoms can happen with doses as small as 20 mg/kg and severe symptoms, including seizures, can happen at 40-60 mg/kg. Given those numbers, as little as four ounces of dark chocolate could cause problems for a average-sized, 60lb Labrador Retriever, America’s most popular breed. How much chocolate can your dog handle before trouble starts? National Geographic has a handy calculator to figure out the amount based on your dog’s weight and the type of chocolate.

If a dog does eat a toxic dose of chocolate, there’s not much that can be done for it outside of a vet’s office if the methylxanthines make it into the dog’s bloodstream and start circulating through the body. In her book, Help!: The Quick Guide to First Aid for Your Dog, veterinarian Michelle Bamberger recommends slowing or stopping this process by the body by trying to make the dog vomit. Don’t try sticking your fingers down its throat, though. Instead, feed it a small dose (a teaspoon) of hydrogen peroxide or table salt. Your vet can handle things from there, and treatment usually involves giving the dog activated charcoal to bind to the toxins and using intravenous fluid therapy to flush them out.

Methylxanthines in chocolate are toxic for other animals, too. Cats are especially susceptible because of their small size. Luckily for them, cats lack the taste receptors that pick up “sweet” tastes, and rarely have much motivation for eating more than a nibble or two of chocolate. Both horses and humans are less susceptible to chocolate toxicity thanks to their size and faster metabolization of the chemicals. Methylxanthine poisoning can still happen to people who consume large amounts of chocolate or coffee in a small timeframe, though, and the amount of caffeine in a strong cup of coffee is enough to cause symptoms in a small child.

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Meet Piper: The Border Collie Making a Michigan Airport Safer for Travelers
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Birds may look harmless on solid ground, but in the sky they pose a big threat to any aircraft crossing their path. The Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City, Michigan, uses a low-tech approach to the problem: a border collie named Piper.

Great Big Story profiled Piper and his handler, airport operations supervisor Brian Edwards, in a recent video. Piper’s job as the airport’s wildlife control canine is chasing away large birds that could strike incoming and outgoing planes, potentially causing anything from dents to engine failure. In Michigan, this usually means large waterfowl like ducks and geese, but it can also include crows, gulls, and snowy owls.

After he’s deployed from a moving car, Piper heads for the birds, scattering them away from the tarmac and teaching them to associate the area with predators. Piper is just doing what most border collies would do in the presence of a flock of birds, only in this case he gets to wear stylish protective goggles while following his instincts.

You can watch the full story below.

[h/t Great Big Story]

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Goodbye Fido, Hello Finn: The Most Popular Dog Names of 2017
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What’s in a name? If you’re a dog, a clue into your pet parents’ favorite movies, television shows, and musicians, apparently. Rover.com, the country’s largest online network of dog walkers and pet sitters, has just revealed the most popular dog names of the year. While the majority of those names follow (human) baby-naming trends—11 of the top 20 names are also among the top 100 baby names—pop culture also plays a big part in the moniker pet parents bestow upon their four-legged furballs. How else would one explain the increasing popularity of names like Barb and Eleven, or Khaleesi, Arya, and Sansa?

There was an uptick in ‘90s nostalgia this year, too; Nirvana saw a 171 percent increase in popularity while Daria grew by 104 percent. Star Wars-inspired names have been a thing for 40 years now, but saw a 70 percent increase in 2017, with Finn being the most popular name from a galaxy far, far away.

So just how unique is your dog’s handle? Well, if his or her name is Max or Bella, not very. Read on to find out more, or visit Rover.com to discover the 100 most popular pooch names of 2017.

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