Dangers of chocolate to pets

Are you a self-confessed chocoholic? While chocolate makes a delicious treat for humans, it is toxic for our beloved cats and dogs. So, it’s important (especially around the festive periods) to make sure you keep this simply irresistible treat out of paws reach!

Why is chocolate so dangerous?

Chocolate is so dangerous because it contains a substance called theobromine, which is similar to caffeine. While humans can process this easily, pets cannot, which then allows these toxic compounds to build up in the system and can result in a significant illness or death.

How much chocolate is poisonous?

This depends on a few things:

  • How much chocolate has been consumed.
  • How large the animal is.
  • The cocoa content of the chocolate – the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it could be.
What should you do if your pet eats chocolate?

Call your vet immediately, don’t wait to see if they become ill.  

If they are already showing symptoms of poisoning, you will need to go in immediately. If they aren’t, your vet may try to work out if they’ve consumed a toxic amount and if they need to be seen.

Tip: While we know this can be extremely frighting, try to stay calm and have the packaging of the chocolate your pet has eaten ready to show your vet.

Symptoms of chocolate toxicity in pets
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Drinking and urinating more than usual
  • Pain
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fast breathing and panting
  • Shaking or tremors
  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure

In very severe cases of chocolate toxicity, pets can experience heart failure, coma or it can be fatal.

When do symptoms appear?

Symptoms usually appear within two to four hours of consuming the chocolate. However, they can take as long as 24hrs.

What is the treatment?

This often varies depending on the length of time the chocolate has been in the pet’s body.

If your vet determines a potentially toxic level of theobromine, and the chocolate has been consumed recently, the usual treatment is to induce vomiting and administer activated charcoal to help absorb any remaining theobromine lingering within the digestive tract. Your pet may require intravenous fluids via a drip to dilute theobromine that has entered the bloodstream and help flush it out of the body. If your pet has developed an irregular heart rate as a result, medication may be required to control this. If muscle tremors and/or seizures are occurring, anti-spasmodic drugs may be needed in addition.

Steps to take to prevent your pet from eating chocolate

• Make sure family members (including children) are aware of the risk to pets.

• Keep all chocolate or chocolate products in an out of reach cupboard or container.

• Show extra caution around the festive periods (Christmas, Easter, etc.) or special events.

Is pet friendly chocolate safe?

Pet friendly chocolate is made from carob, and is safe for dogs to eat. However, carob does taste a lot like chocolate to our dogs, and if they get a taste for it, it could lead to a greater desire to steal our own unsafe chocolate. Carob contains no theobromine or caffeine though, and in moderation, this little bean based ingredient is not harmful to our canine friends.