Chocolate may be a popular treat for you and me, but it is extremely toxic to our pets. Even small amounts can cause illness. Most often dogs are more susceptible to chocolate poisoning because they are less discriminating when it comes to food, plus cats are more finicky and lack a “sweet tooth,” but it is dangerous to both.
While consuming chocolate is rarely fatal for dogs and cats, the symptoms of poisoning are serious. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, elevated temperature, muscle rigidity and tremors, rapid breathing and seizures. Advanced signs are cardiac arrest and coma.
Two ingredients in chocolate — caffeine and theobromine — are the main causes of chocolate poisoning in dogs and cats. Theobromine is a naturally occurring stimulant and is especially dangerous to pets. Even a small amount, as low as 20 mg/kg, can cause toxicity. For reference, milk chocolate has anywhere from 44 to 64 mg of theobromine per ounce. Dark chocolate is much more potent, with dark and bitter baking chocolates having as much as 450 mg/ounce. Dry cocoa powder can contain 800 mg/ounce. This means a 50-pound dog would only need to eat one ounce of baker’s chocolate to potentially express signs of poisoning. While white chocolate contains almost no caffeine or theobromine, its high amounts of fat and sugar can cause upset stomach and — in some cases — pancreatitis.
If you suspect your pet ate chocolate and is experiencing any of these signs, contact us immediately. We may perform a physical, chemical blood profile and urinalysis to determine the best way to treat your pet. Some solutions for chocolate toxicity are to induce vomiting, give a small amount of active charcoal and increase water consumption.
When it comes to chocolate, it’s sweeter for your pet to be greedy and keep it to yourself.