Chocolate Toxicity & Your Pet: What You Need to Know

Humans love chocolate, especially on holidays such as Christmas or Valentines Day. But for our furry friends, chocolate can be a dangerous chemical with potentially life-threatening effects.

If your cat or dog consumes chocolate, it may not always be fatal. The effects depend on the size of the pet and the amount of chocolate consumed. However, it is always better to be safe than sorry, especially considering that it can still cause lasting health problems for your pet that may be difficult to treat. 

Read on to discover everything you need to know about chocolate toxicity and your pet.

Why is Chocolate Toxic to Pets?

There are two chemicals which make chocolate toxic to pets. The first is caffeine — this is the same reason your pup should never drink coffee. Caffeine can cause dehydration and increased heart rate.

The other dangerous chemical is theobromine. This chemical is a diuretic, meaning it is  dehydrating. It also tends to dilate blood vessels in the body. Our pets cannot digest these chemicals as well as humans can, which makes these side effects more severe and dangerous.

It is worth noting that not all chocolates will have the same toxicity. 

Generally, the more bitter the chocolate tastes, the more dangerous it could be for your furry friend. This means dark baking chocolate is the most dangerous in small amounts, while white chocolate is a little safer.

A medium-sized dog, weighing about 50 pounds, can consume about 9 ounces of milk chocolate, or just 1 ounce of dark chocolate, before they start showing signs of toxicity. For smaller dogs, these amounts might be lower, while bigger dogs can safely consume higher amounts. 

Symptoms of Chocolate Toxicity

The first symptom you may notice in your pet is diarrhea and vomiting. This is the body’s natural response to expel any unwanted toxins. In moderate cases, this should be enough to help your pet feel better.

However, in more extreme cases, more dangerous symptoms may emerge. These include:

  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Panting or restlessness 
  • High heart rate
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures

If you notice these symptoms in your pet, or notice some chocolate has gone missing, you will want to contact your vet immediately to determine if medical intervention is necessary. The earlier your pet can be treated, the more minimal the effects will be, so don’t wait for symptoms to worsen before you make the call.

How to Protect Your Pet

The best way you can protect your pet from chocolate toxicity is to store chocolate sweets safely. 

More than just keeping them in a cupboard or pantry, you might want to consider child-proof containers, especially if your dog is extra crafty. 

It is also a good idea to train your pet the “leave it” command to dissuade them from eating anything that could cause them harm. Teaching obedience from a young age can protect your pet from dangerous situations.

Finally, be sure to educate any other household members of the dangers of leaving chocolate around, especially children.

Veterinary Hospital in Frederick, MD

If you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, you need a vet that you can trust. The team at Old Farm Veterinary Hospital can help. We have years of experience needed to cure, protect, and prevent toxicity in pets. Don’t wait – call now to learn more!