The Dangers of Chocolate for Dogs and Cats

Many of us will be tucking into chocolate eggs and other sweet treats over the Easter weekend, but you won’t be doing your pets any favours if you offer them some of the goodies.

Chocolate and dogs or cats are not a good combination as it can actually be very dangerous (if not lethal) if eaten by your pet.

Why is chocolate is dangerous for dogs and cats?

The presence of theobromine is the main reason as to why pets cannot safely consume chocolate. Whereas humans can easily break down theobromine down, this is much more difficult for pets. Because of this, pets are much more likely to develop chocolate poisoning. In even small amounts, chocolate can lead to diarrhoea and sickness. It can be much more serious than this though and as a worst case scenario, it could even prove fatal.

Dark chocolate is the most dangerous type as it contains more theobromine compared to white chocolate. Milk chocolate is not as risky as dark chocolate but can still be poisonous in the right quantities.

Pet insurance - a dog sits among chocolate eggs

Cats are generally less enthusiastic about eating lots of chocolate compared to dogs. This makes it rarer than they will develop chocolate poisoning but it can still happen. Consuming around 20mg per pound of body weight can result in feline chocolate poisoning.

Dogs are more at risk, especially given that they will often happily gorge on it. Eating 25g of chocolate has proved lethal for 20kg dogs in the past, especially with dark chocolate.

It’s better to avoid giving your pet any access to chocolate to be on the safe side.

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning

The symptoms of theobromine poisoning include:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • rapid breathing
  • increased heart rate
  • low blood pressure
  • seizures
  • cardiac arrest
  • weakness
  • coma

What to do if your cat or dog eats chocolate

If you suspect that your pet has chocolate poisoning, get in touch with your vet as soon as possible and definitely within 4 hours of the suspected ingestion. There is no definitive cure for chocolate poisoning and treatment will usually be based on damage limitation. They may try to induce vomiting to limit the amount of theobromine that can get into your pet’s system, for example.

Alternative options to chocolate

Treats don’t have to be off the agenda completely. Specialist treats are a much better alternative to chocolate and will often contain vital ingredients for your pet’s health. Other options include baked Easter treats, small pieces of cooked chicken for both cats and dogs, and most fruits for dogs. Always avoid raisins, grapes, Macadamia nuts, avocado and mushrooms, all of which can be dangerous snacks for pets.

To be on the safe side, it’s always best to have pet insurance cover in place just in case of unexpected veterinary fees.

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