Chocolate Toxicity in Pets: Symptoms & Precautions


By Linda Cole

Halloween is once again at our doorstep. Trick or treaters will begin tapping on doors to collect the goodies we have to offer. Among the caramel apples, popcorn balls and tasty treats of this spooky holiday will be chocolate candy bars, brownies or other special goodies made with chocolate. We devour tons of chocolate each year, but just a small amount can be deadly for our dogs and cats. Why is chocolate so toxic to pets?

Pets do have a sweet tooth. That’s why outside pets are attracted to spilled antifreeze on someone’s driveway and can become poisoned from licking even a small amount. Pets think they should be able to eat everything we eat. It’s hard to ignore their begging, bright eyes asking for (or demanding) a bite of whatever we are eating. When it comes to chocolate, even one bite can leave them begging for more.

Once pets, especially dogs, have tasted chocolate, they will develop a craving for it. The best thing to do is just not give your pet chocolate, period. Not only is chocolate toxic for pets, it can be fatal if they eat too much, and chocolate poisoning is more common than you may think. The ASPCA Poison Control Center and vets across the country see a spike in calls from worried pet owners during holidays like Halloween, Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

It’s important for children to understand that sharing their Halloween chocolate treats with their dog or cat can make the pet extremely sick. A little chocolate won’t hurt most dogs or cats; however, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Avoid any risk to your pet by not giving them any chocolate to begin with.

The amount of chocolate considered to be too much depends on the health, age, weight and size of your pet. The smaller the animal, the smaller amount of chocolate it takes to poison them. An older pet who is out of shape or has underlying illnesses could be affected by a very small amount of chocolate. It also depends on the type of chocolate; darker chocolate is more deadly. Dogs are more likely to be affected because they seem to be able to search and find chocolate better than cats, but cats can also be poisoned.

Theobromine is a natural stimulate found in the cocoa bean. This is what’s poisonous to pets. It affects the central nervous system and heart muscles, and it also increases urination. Caffeine is also present in chocolate although not in high concentrations like Theobromine.

Chocolate toxicity in pets is a serious health issue. If you suspect your pet may have eaten too much chocolate, call your vet immediately. Symptoms of chocolate toxicity in pets will begin within 12 hours or less and include:

* Being excited, nervous, shaking, hyperactive

* Diarrhea or vomiting

* Drinking a lot of water or increased urination, which is caused by too much Theobromine in their system.

* Muscle spasms or seizures

Most of us have a variety of chocolate in the house for baking purposes or eating. Dry cocoa powder tops the list of chocolate that is most dangerous for our pets, followed by Bakers chocolate (unsweetened), cocoa bean mulch, semisweet chocolate chips, sweet dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate. When evaluating chocolate toxicity in pets, it’s important to know what type of chocolate was ingested, and how much.

If your Siberian Husky or Lab eats a small chocolate candy bar, they will probably not be affected as long as they are healthy to begin with. A cat or Chihuahua grabbing a chocolate chip that fell on the floor should be fine, but when it comes to chocolate and pets, it best to just say no.

After the kids return home with their bags of Halloween goodies and everything is spread out on the table so you can survey their haul, please remember to make sure Halloween is safe for all members of your family. Chocolate is great in our tummies, but pets are better off with a healthy, chocolate-free snack made just for them.

My cats beg just as much as my dogs do, and it’s hard to deny any of them a small bite of whatever I may be eating. For me, the choice is easy when it comes to chocolate. It’s just not worth the risk. Besides, by not sharing, it leaves more for me!

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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