(By Saad Imran)
Dr. Jeff said, “The short answer is, don’t feed your pets chocolate! The long answer is that there are certain grades and amounts of chocolate that are obviously much more serious than others.”
He recommends using a Pet Chocolate Toxicity Calculator to see if your pet needs immediate medical attention after ingesting chocolate. If you notice symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, panting and restlessness, rush your pet to the veterinary clinic asap.
Why is Chocolate Bad for Pets?
Chocolate is harmful to pets because it contains theobromine, a chemical that dogs and cats don’t easily metabolize. This toxic chemical slowly builds up in their system and can cause potentially fatal issues.
In dogs, theobromine affects the respiratory system, cardiovascular system, central nervous system and can also have a diuretic effect. Dogs that have heart conditions, or are older, are much more likely to undergo serious side effects.
The effects of theobromine on your dog depend on the type and amount of chocolate it consumes. For example, cocoa powder and dark chocolate contain higher amounts of theobromine and can be pretty poisonous for your dog.
Milk chocolate has only 44-58 mg of theobromine per ounce; hence it poses much less risk of toxicity for your dog. However, any type of chocolate can cause vomiting and other digestive symptoms in your dog.
The size of your dog also determines the extent of the harmful effects of chocolate poisoning. If a smaller dog ingests a little amount of chocolate, it’s likely to get more sick from it.
Data shows that two 4.2 ounce bars of dark chocolate can easily make a 44-pound dog sick, while 1.1 pounds of it can even be fatal.
Chocolate poisoning in cats is less likely to occur since a chocolate bar might not appeal much to your kitty. However, any kind of milk-based chocolate drink can still be a risk around them.
The effects of theobromine ingestion in cats are the same as they are in dogs. Cats can show symptoms like restlessness, increased heart rate, seizures, diarrhea and muscle rigidity after consuming it.
To ensure your cat’s safety, you should keep it away from anything that contains theobromine since the cat will not digest it properly. You can also follow other pet holiday safety tips to keep your pets safe while you’re busy enjoying the holiday.
Are there any alternatives?
Yes, definitely! A good alternative to Chocolate is Carob, a brown powder that is extracted from the carob bean. The ASPCA lists it as non-toxic for dogs, cats and horses and It’s widely used in many types of dog treats.
Carob does not contain theobromine and besides being safe for your pet, it’s also healthy and has many nutrients like calcium, magnesium, vitamin B2 and iron.
With Carob, you can make homemade pet treats like chips, cookies, peanut butter cups, cake and icing for dog treats.
For a perfectly safe option for your dogs and cats (especially around Halloween!), Dr.Jeff also suggests making some homemade treats for your pets.
What to Do If Your Pet Consumes Chocolate
To ensure your cat’s and dog’s safety, follow these steps:
- Call the Veterinarian. Your vet would be the best resource in this situation. Do not wait for your pet to show any symptoms. Call your vet and tell them the amount and type of chocolate your pet has consumed and they will advise you if it needs immediate medical attention.
- Call the Pet Poison Hotline. If it’s the holiday season and you can’t get in touch with your vet, you can contact the pet poison hotline at (855) 764-7661 to ask for advice. However, they may charge you a consultation fee.
- Rush to the Emergency Clinic. If you notice severe symptoms like seizures and muscle tremors, it’s best to take your pet to an emergency animal clinic. Vets at the clinic may induce vomiting, feed your pet activated charcoal or provide symptomatic and supportive care.
They may also suggest future treatment and a nutrition plan to help your pet recover from the harmful effects of chocolate poisoning.