Talk of outward appearance, life expectancy, ability to bark, and most important of all, biological family! These are just a few of the many similarities dogs share with their closest cousins— wolves. But does this similarity replicate even when it comes to diet? Is everything poisonous to dogs also toxic to wolves? For instance, is chocolate safe for wolves? Well, just read on to discover!
Similar to their domesticated cousins, wolves should not eat chocolate. That’s because it contains methylxanthines— theobromine and caffeine, which are all toxic to wolves. And unlike humans, wolves can’t metabolize these two ingredients well. Hence, eating chocolate presents a danger for wolves and can even lead to death!
What Happens if a Wolf Eats Chocolate?
Now that you know that chocolate isn’t safe for wolves, you are likely to wonder what the repercussions would be if a wolf eats it. Well, the consequences may vary depending on 3 things;
- The size of the wolf
- Type of chocolate
- The amount taken
About the size of the wolf, smaller wolves are more likely to experience severe symptoms than larger ones, even after taking the same type and amount of chocolate.
Similar to dogs, symptoms in wolves will manifest if the amount of methylxanthines intake translates to 10-30mg per kilogram of their weight. That means smaller wolves have the short end of the stick whenever they eat chocolate.
On the type of chocolate, one thing to keep in mind is that methylxanthine content isn’t the same across all the types of chocolate. Some contain more than others, with the ones having the highest concentration being the most toxic.
The methylxanthine concentration is highest in dry cocoa powder at 28.5mg/g, while milk chocolate sits at the opposite end of the spectrum at only 2.3mg/g. Nevertheless, that doesn’t make white milk chocolate safer for wolves. While it isn’t likely to lead to much toxicity, it can still cause trouble when ingested by wolves.
Lastly, on the amount taken, more chocolate in the body typically translates to more severe symptoms. That’s because the toxicity level in the body increases with an increase in the size of chocolate ingested.
Back to the nitty-gritty of this section, a few things happen when a wolf eats chocolate. After exposure, methylxanthine alkaloids present in the chocolate cause;
- Constricted blood vessels: This is technically known as vasoconstriction; “Vaso” for “blood vessels” and “constriction” to mean “narrowing”. When this happens, it reduces or blocks the flow of blood. It also causes increased vascular resistance, meaning that blood doesn’t flow smoothly to skin and other essential body organs far from the heart.
- Rapid Heart Rate: Both caffeine and theobromine are cardiac stimulants. Once they reach the heart, the two trigger the release of other chemicals. That causes a more rapid heart rate and increased heart muscle contractions.
- Stimulation of the central nervous system (CNS): The CNS consists primarily of the brain and the spinal cord. When wolves eat chocolate, the theobromine and caffeine in it can cause complex reactions in their CNS.
Hence, there are a series of reactions that happen whenever wolves or dogs ingest chocolate. It primarily affects the cardiovascular system, nervous system, and at times the respiratory system—that’s more than you probably thought!
What Makes Chocolate Bad For Wolves?
So, what exactly makes this tasty treat a death invitation for Wolves? Apparently, what goes into the chocolate is what matters.
Usually, the most dangerous ingredient in chocolates is theobromine. Again, all chocolates contain this component. That means before you throw that bar of chocolate to the wolf when next you visit the zoo, please think again!
Another component in chocolates that can be harmful to wolves is caffeine. While caffeine may not be as dominant in chocolate as theobromine, it doesn’t come as a lesser ingredient when it’s time to act against the dog cousins.
And considering that almost every chocolate contains these two ingredients, it’s impossible to figure out one chocolate variety that isn’t going to affect wolves. That also applies to our four-legged members that form part of our modern families.
Actually, even the smallest amount of chocolate is at times all it takes to put the lives of these adorable beings on the line.
Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to tell the methylxanthine content level in chocolate by just staring at it. However, most people claim that the darker chocolate is, the higher the content of these chemicals will be.
In addition, we must remember that chocolate is one of the energy-dense treats we have out there. That’s because of the high level of sugar and fats it contains. In fact, that explains why you need to have chocolate top the list of treats to shun if on a weight loss program.
Actually, it will only take 100 grams of dark chocolate to reap a whopping 550 calories. It can be even more for some types of chocolate, with almost all types containing at least 500 calories per 100 grams.
Therefore, other than affecting wolves in the ways seen earlier, chocolate can cause a significant increase in their weight, especially when they feed on it more regularly.
Signs of Poisoning in Wolves After Eating Chocolate
After feeding on chocolate, especially large amounts of it, wolves will typically exhibit some signs. They may appear as soon as within an hour after ingestion, but sometimes it may take up to 12 hours before you begin seeing mild symptoms.
It all depends on the three things that we said help define chocolate toxicity—the size of the wolf, the type of chocolate, and the amount taken.
Some of the chocolate poisoning signs include;
- Breathing struggles
- Increased heart rate
- Increased urination
- Decreased blood pressure
- Diarrhea— especially when taken in large amounts.
As seen, the signs of chocolate poisoning in wolves are numerous and vary from mild to severe. Some are so mild they may not be easy to see unless you pay keen attention to the intoxicated wolf.
Also, not all of the above signs will manifest altogether. At times it can be one, several, or even none. At times, you may see some not captured on the list. However, one thing to always keep in mind is that each wolf is different from the other. Therefore, how one responds to chocolate poisoning doesn’t mean all others will follow the trend.
In addition, when you see such signs, it doesn’t always have to be chocolate poisoning. They can also be from an underlying health condition or intoxication by other dangerous substances. Consider that chocolate isn’t the only human food wolves should avoid!
Can Chocolate Kill Wolves?
Have you ever wondered to what extreme things can go after a wolf eats chocolate? It can be to the extent of causing death in wolves! That will happen where the level of toxicity is extremely high.
However, wolves will seldom be exposed to an amount of chocolate enough to cause death. Usually, they live away from humans. That makes it very unlikely they will come across chocolate their entire life, leave alone finding it in plenty.
In fact, if wolves will at any point eat chocolate, then it has to be from humans, probably those visiting the zoo. And let’s get realistic here, would you ever give a wolf an entire box of chocolate bars? No, probably not! A bar or two would make sense, and not anything more than that.
The small amounts of chocolate wolves will come across are very unlikely to trigger any signs. But again, it’s wise to avoid giving them even the smallest bits of chocolate as each wolf is unique in its own way.
Other Poisonous Foods For Wolves
Now that we already know that chocolate can be dangerous for wolves, what other foods should they avoid?
As we began by saying, there are many similarities between wolves and dogs. Actually, they are members of the same family, Canidae, and share 98.8% of the same DNA. Hence, if there’s one food you know it’s dangerous for your canine, then it’s very likely to affect the wolf in the same way. Some of the foods that you should never give a wolf include;
- Alcohol: Alcoholic drinks can be dangerous to wolves. Alcohol affects the nervous system of wolves, and that can make them get wobbly at their feet. Under severe circumstances, alcohol intoxication can lead to coma and death.
- Garlic or Onion Powder: The two are very rich in sulfoxides and disulfides, two components that affect the oxygen levels in the blood.
- Avocados: While they are among the most nutritious and tastiest fruits, it’s unfortunate that avocados aren’t safe for wolves and other members of that family. Avocados contain persin, a compound that can cause severe irritation of the stomach and mouth to the wolves.
- Coffee: We already saw that caffeine isn’t good for wolves. And since the content level is very high in coffee, that makes coffee one of the foods wolves should never take.
- Raisins: They contain a substance that can cause kidney failure. However, similar to chocolate, raisins can only cause side effects when consumed in massive quantities.
- Other foods: The list of foods dangerous to wolves is almost endless. They also include; xylitol, macadamia nuts, onions, tomatoes, and more.
Chocolate is just as dangerous to wolves as to dogs. It contains caffeine and theobromine, two substances that don’t settle politely with the wolve’s internal body system. However, the amount of these substances needed to cause poisoning is very high and very unlikely that a wolf will eat chocolate containing as much.
Nevertheless, if it happens, signs can range from mild to severe, and the worst of all—death! The severity of these signs differs depending on the toxicity level, primarily influenced by the type of chocolate, size of the wolf, and the amount eaten.