Chocolate toxicity can occur at any time, but pets may really find themselves in trouble this time of year. Even a small amount of chocolate disguised in a brightly-colored foil wrapper can pose a significant threat to your pet’s health. Your best defense is to simply remove the opportunity, but, unfortunately, a pet poisoning can happen when you least expect it.
Out of Paw’s Reach
As we mentioned before, preventing a pet poisoning is vital to your pet’s overall wellness. That being said, some things are simply out of your control. Maybe they come across a piece of chocolate on the sidewalk or your curious pet finds some candy in a backpack or coat pocket – it’s impossible to plan for every scenario.
The best rule of thumb is to store all chocolate on a high shelf or behind a closed cabinet door. Make sure everyone in your house is aware of the dangers of chocolate and request extra care and consideration.
Why it’s Off Limits
Chocolate results in a pet poisoning because of two methylxanthines: theobromine and caffeine. In large quantities, these can be toxic. Humans can handle chocolate because of our size/weight and our tolerance level that’s built up over time.
Theobromine and caffeine are responsible for stimulating the nervous system, but other dangerous side effects can include:
- Increased heart rate
- Erratic respiration
Obviously, if your pet eats a great deal of chocolate, the symptoms will be more severe. However, the type of chocolate consumed also matters. Dark chocolate, cocoa powder, and baker’s chocolate have the highest concentrations of theobromine and caffeine. Semi-sweet, milk chocolate and chocolate flavoring are less toxic, but should still be avoided.
Other Pet Poisoning Risks
Pancreatitis is an additional risk that can result from a chocolate-related pet poisoning. Pain, vomiting, and diarrhea are strong indicators after eating a rich, fatty, sugary snack. While chocolate can take a few days to metabolize and digest, the effects of this type of pet poisoning must be handled promptly. If left untreated, chocolate toxicity can be fatal.
Your pet’s age, weight, and general health also play important roles. A smaller animal is at a higher risk for complications, even if they eat the same amount of chocolate as a larger pet. Eating very small amounts of milk chocolate is never good, but little nibbles shouldn’t trigger the same treacherous symptoms.
Cats lack the ability to detect sweet flavors, so they’re less likely to eat candy or products containing chocolate. However, they may be more sensitive to theobromine and caffeine. If you know or suspect your cat has eaten chocolate, emergency care is vital.