If you are like most pet owners, you have probably heard that chocolate consumption is potentially deadly for your canine buddies. But you may not know the reasons why this sweet treat that dogs crave should always be avoided or why carob is the perfect substitute for chocolate.
Chocolate is dangerous for pets (cats too – although unlike dogs they are not generally interested in it) because it contains a xanthine alkaloid called theobromine, a compound also found in tea and caffeinated cola drinks. Theobromine is metabolized by humans with ease, but is processed much more slowly by a dog’s digestive system. So toxic levels of it can build up and lead to medical problems ranging from a mild upset stomach with or without vomiting and diarrhea to internal bleeding, seizures, tremors and even death.
Chocolate also contains caffeine, fromamide and phenylthalamine, which can all be harmful to pets. There are even different levels of danger concerning chocolate: baking chocolate and dark chocolate have the highest, most potentially harmful levels of theobromine, while milk chocolate and white chocolate contain less of the substance, but are still dangerous.
On the other hand, carob, which has been used for many years as a substitute for chocolate, is perfectly safe for canine consumption. So what is the difference? It is simply that chocolate and carob are not related at all.
Chocolate comes from the cocoa plant, which originated in Central America and Mexico, and is now mostly produced in the Ivory Coast and Ghana in West Africa. The carob tree is a Mediterranean native tree which is in the same family as peas. Carob can be powdered just like cocoa can, but carob is naturally sweet and does not require the addition of sugar to make it palatable. And while the taste of carob is both sweet and similar enough to chocolate to use it as a perfect substitute in recipes for humans or canines, carob contains no theobromine at all.
Carob contains calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and vitamins A, B and D, all of which are good for dogs. The absorption of calcium, especially, helps fight the development of osteoporosis and the joint pains that can accompany it. Carob is also a good fiber source for dogs and contains pectin (like apples) which helps flush toxins from the body. So unlike chocolate, carob is actually healthy for Fido, helping improve digestion, lowering cholesterol levels and even treating loose bowels.
Since carob is available in chips or powder form, there are endless way to use it in homemade dog treats. You can dip your homemade dog biscuits in carob melted in a little shortening or vegetable oil, or bake a batch of peanut butter canine cookies with carob chips for an irresistible dog treat. For those dog days of summer, you can even whip up a batch of frozen carob and yogurt treats for your furry friend.
So next time your canine companion needs a sweet treat, like a carob cookie from Pet Nibbles will keep Fido happy, healthy and safe.