A Bird’s and Dog’s Eye View

Why birds and dogs shouldn’t eat chocolate

Bentley:  Leo, I was just hanging out under the kitchen table the other day when this dark colored, sweet smelling food called chocolate dropped on the floor. Just as I put it in my mouth I was instructed to release it! I was told it was chocolate and that it is not good for me, but no one explained why. Do you know why chocolate is not something I can eat?

Leo:  I’ve had the same experience as you Bentley with chocolate, but I had my mouth washed out. I was told that processed chocolate not only has a lot of sugar in it that is not good for us, but has something called Theobromine. Theobromine is derived from Theobroma, the genus of the cacao tree. The word Theobroma is composed of the Greek roots, theo “God” and broma “food,” meaning “food of the gods.” Now really, Bentley, how can “food of the gods” be bad for us? I just don’t understand, but I’ll take my caregivers’ word for it, for I know they love me.

Bentley:  Well, but then why can humans eat it and not us? Gosh, they get all the pleasure of eating chocolate and we don’t!

Leo:  The amount of theobromine in chocolate is small enough that it can be safely consumed by humans in large quantities. However, animals metabolize theobromine more slowly and they can easily consume enough to cause chocolate poisoning. Theobromine is a stimulant frequently confused with caffeine, but its effects are different than caffeine in the body. Now, if we were out in nature and came across a Theobroma cocoa (the cocoa bean) we could eat a little of the bean because it has not been processed and concentrated. But otherwise, no chocolate for us!

Bentley:  Besides chocolate, I know some of the foods I am not to eat are xylitol-containing products (artificial sweetener), onions and garlic, grapes and raisins, mushrooms, macadamia nuts, alcohol and uncooked yeast dough, coffee, tea and other caffeinated products, peach and cherry and plum pits, apple seeds and avocados.

Leo:  The only one that you mentioned that I can eat and you can’t is grapes. However, the pesticides need to be washed off very well. Awhile back we had gotten some grapes from Chile which had a terrible pesticide on them that made some of our birds quite ill. Just a reminder to all pet owners:  it is always a good practice to wash all the wax and pesticides off of foods before giving to your pet.

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