Chocolates pose as a health hazard to our furry companions. However, some of the common beliefs about chocolate poisoning are exaggerated. For instance, ingesting it can immediately cause poisoning, which is not always the case. The effect of chocolate toxicity depends on the size of the pets and the type and quantity of chocolate that they have eaten. Know how much is too much and what types of chocolates are more toxic for your pet.
Why is chocolate toxic to cats and dogs?
The presence of the chemicals theobromine and caffeine in chocolate is what makes it poisonous to pets. Whilst our bodies can easily metabolise these chemicals, our furry buddies, especially dogs, process them more slowly. As a result, the toxins can build up to dangerous levels in their system.
Chocolate poisoning statistics
In the 2017 annual report of the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS), chocolate ranked as the third most common agent of toxicity that pet owners report to the organisation. There were over 600 chocolate toxicity incidents recorded in total. Dogs are the usual victims of this type of poisoning.
According to the 2017 report, VPIS received 267 calls about possible milk chocolate poisoning and 148 calls for chocolate toxicity in dogs. All chocolate enquiries (whether, milk, dark, or white) comprised 5.8 per cent of all canine enquiries. On the other hand, chocolate was not listed in the top 10 most common toxicity enquiries in cats in 2017.
Why are dogs more prone to chocolate poisoning than cats?
A canine’s taste buds can identify sweet taste just like humans. Thus, most of our pooches can develop a sweet tooth. This is why they have the tendency to get their paws on sugary treats. Meanwhile, cats are unable to taste sweetness. Therefore, they are less likely to eat large amounts of chocolate.
Types of Chocolate and How Toxic Are They For Pets
- White Chocolate
Theobromine content: approximately 0.25 mg/oz
It contains the lowest amount of theobromine. However, pet owners must not let their guard down. Ingesting too much white chocolate can cause diarrhoea and even pancreatitis. It also has a high sugar level which is harmful to your furry friend’s health.
- Milk Chocolate
Theobromine content: 44-58 mg/oz
The theobromine content of milk chocolate is higher than that of white chocolate but not as high as dark or baking chocolate. If your pet consumes large amounts of milk chocolate, it can result in diarrhoea and vomiting.
- Dark Chocolate
Theobromine content: 150-160 mg/oz
It is packed with extremely high levels of theobromine. Even if dark chocolate is ingested in small quantity, its effects can be devastating. Signs of dark chocolate poisoning include irregular heartbeats tremors, and in extreme cases, seizures.
- Baking Chocolate
Theobromine content: approximately 450 mg/oz
Out of all four chocolates, this one causes the most harm to cats and dogs. It contains more theobromine than dark chocolate. A tiny amount of baking chocolate is enough to cause heart problems to our pets.
- Cocoa Bean Mulch
Theobromine content: approximately 255 mg/oz
Although cocoa bean mulch is not chocolate, it smells like one and also contains theobromine which can cause toxicity. If you have planted this in your garden, make sure to keep it out of your furry friends reach. Ingesting too much cocoa bean mulch can induce diarrhoea, vomiting, rapid heart rate, and tremors.
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How Much is Too Much?
The harmful effects of chocolate depend on the size of your pet. If you have a small-sized dog or cat, they are more susceptible to chocolate poisoning. Whilst a bar of chocolate might not have any effect on larger pets, it should never be fed as a treat. The effects of chocolate toxicity depend on the amount of theobromine ingested by your pooch too. They are as follows:
- 20 mg/kg
- 40 mg/kg
– heart arrhythmias
– high blood pressure
– fast heart rate
- 60 mg/kg
- 200 mg/kg
It is also worth noting that if older pets ingest too much dark or baking chocolate, they might have a sudden death due to cardiac arrest. Geriatric cats and dogs with pre-existing heart disease are more likely to succumb to this condition.
What should I do if my pet has chocolate poisoning?
It is best for you to bring your pet to the vet immediately for treatment. The medication depends on the amount and type of chocolate consumed. If the toxicity is spotted early, the vet will usually administer medicine that would trigger vomiting.
The vet will also give your furry friend activated charcoal to prevent the body from absorbing theobromine. You can also expect the vet to provide supportive treatments such as intravenous fluid therapy. This helps in stabilising your pet and encourages theobromine excretion.