Chocolate is a favorite treat among many people, but it can be harmful for pets if consumed, even deadly if medical attention is not sought out quickly. It is commonly found in households, used for baking or just for snack time, making it easily accessible to all. With Valentine’s Day being a popular day for
the giving of chocolate, it is important to remember to store boxes and containers away from all pets and to never purposefully feed it to them.
Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, substances that dogs are far more sensitive to than people. There are different types of chocolates with varying amounts of these substances in them, such as white, milk, dark, and baker’s. In general, it is easy to remember that the darker the chocolate and the more bitter flavor, the greater the danger. It also tends to have a higher fat content based on the type, which in many cases can cause upset stomach or inflammation of the pancreas.
There are many factors to consider when deciding if a dose will be toxic for your pet. Usually dogs are the ones that find themselves enjoying a bag or box of chocolate more than cats. Cats are mainly finicky eaters, but remember that chocolate can be just as harmful to them. The size of the animal, the amount, and the type of chocolate are the main factors to determine toxicity. If a 5 lb Chihuahua ate 3 ounces of baker’s chocolate, it is severe and will most likely lead to death if not medically treated. If that same Chihuahua ate 3 ounces of white chocolate, there may be minor symptoms of vomiting and/or diarrhea. Your veterinarian will be able to calculate the toxic dose specifically for your pet.
Theobromine is the substance that causes toxicity. The major symptoms are:
Increased body temperature
Irregular heart rhythms
Increased heart rate
Low blood pressure
Cardiac arrest, coma, and/or death
What to Do
If you are suspicious that your pet got into some chocolate, call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline* immediately. It is best to know the weight of your pet, how much may have been consumed, and the type. Based on that information, the veterinarian can decide which treatment will be necessary. If the chocolate was only just eaten, your veterinarian may have advice regarding steps that can be taken at home prior to bringing your dog into the clinic. In more severe cases, hospitalization and support are necessary. It is always recommended to seek medical advice from professionals before trying to treat on your own and to always get medical attention if you are suspicious of any form of toxicity.
*Pet Poison Helpline, is an animal poison control service based out of Minneapolis available 24 hours, seven days a week for pet owners and veterinary professionals who require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet. Pet Poison Helpline is available in North America by calling 800-213-6680. Additional information can be found online at www.petpoisonhelpline.com.