Chocolate and your Pet

Chocolate may be America’s favourite flavour. We like chocolate candy, ice cream, chocolate drinks, chocolate cakes, just about anything with chocolate. We may want to share our favourite treat with an eager pet but it is best to think twice and reach for the dog biscuits instead.

Why Is Chocolate Bad? Sometimes we eat chocolate plain. Sometimes we eat it baked into cakes, mixed into ice cream, etc. The first problem with these sweets is the fat. A sudden high fat meal (such as demolishing a bag of chocolate bars left accessible at Halloween time) can create a lethal metabolic disease in pets called pancreatitis. Vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain are just the beginning of this disaster. Remember, in the case of pancreatitis, it is the fat that causes the problem more than the chocolate itself.

The fat and sugar in the chocolate can create an unpleasant but temporary upset stomach. This is what happens in most chocolate ingestion cases. Chocolate is, however, directly toxic because of the theobromine. The more chocolate liquor there is in a product, the more theobromine is present. This makes baking chocolate the worst for pets, followed by semisweet and dark chocolate, followed by milk chocolate, followed by chocolate flavoured cakes or cookies. Theobromine causes:

* Vomiting

* Diarrhea

* Hyperactivity

* Tremors

* Seizures

* Racing heart rhythm progressing to abnormal rhythms

* Death in severe cases

Toxic doses of theobromine are 9 mg per pound of dog for mild signs, up to 18 mg per pound of dog for severe signs. Milk chocolate contains 44 mg / ounce of theobromine while semisweet chocolate contains 150 mg per ounce, and baking chocolate contains 390 mg per ounce. It takes nearly 4 days for the effects of chocolate to work its way out of a dog’s system. If the chocolate was only just eaten, it is possible to induce vomiting; otherwise, hospitalization and support are needed until the chocolate has worked its way out of the system.

If you think your pet may have consumed chocolate please contact your veterinarian.

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