★Helping you and your pets live healthier, longer lives★ by Dr. Margo Hunt
Now that the candy holidays are upon us…. Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s, Easter (oh wow, do all holidays involve candy?)… we inevitably start getting calls and visits about animals eating chocolate. A friend of mine asked me to give some general advice on the subject…. and just to be on the safe side, I’ll point out that only YOUR veterinarian can make medical decisions about your pet. These are just generic guidelines, so if you’re pet has been mischievous and gotten into the chocolate stash, call your vet, the emergency clinic, or animal poison control (888-426-4435).
If your pet is having seizures, seems “drunk”, is having trouble breathing, or is losing consciousness, then YES, get to the vet as soon as possible. If this is after-hours, go to the emergency clinic. Do not wait until morning! If your pet is acting fine, or having mild stomach upset/vomiting, then a phone call to the vet may be all that is required.
Knowing these things are very important to determining the risk:
Here is a basic calculator you can use to determine the risk:
Proof! – usually dogs are very messy eaters, so you may find the plastic pumpkin on the floor, chewed to pieces, with chocolate all over her face.
Vomiting – a natural response to ingestion of something “bad” for a pet is to vomit. I remember once as a child, our dog “Sheltie” (who was not a sheltie, but a border collie), ate my entire bag of Halloween candy. Yes, the bag, the wrappers, the candy. How did we know? We could smell chocolate all over the house because she promptly vomited it all. What a mess!
Diarrhea – with or without the vomiting episodes, you may soon see evidence at the other end…. poor things just weren’t meant to process candy.
Behavior/mentation changes – Hyperactivity, lethargy, agitation, thirst.
Other changes – Fast heart rate, seizures, and possibly death.
There is a chemical in chocolate that is called theobromine, which is a dimethylxanthine, related to caffeine. This substance is a naturally occurring component of the cacao plant and is found in cocoa beans or powder. Theobromine happens to be something dogs and cats are very sensitive to because they metabolize it much slower than humans. The higher the cacao content of the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. For example, dark chocolate has 10x the amount of theobromine as the same amount of milk chocolate. Premium, high-quality chocolates tend to have more cacao than other chocolates. Other foods that contain theobromine are the kola nut, the guarana berry, holly berries, yerba mate, and tea leaves.
Also, chocolate has a ton of sugar and fat…. those can be very dangerous to animals as well. Don’t overlook the possible effects of these components, even if no neurological problems are occurring. Pancreatitis is a serious risk!
*Cats are much less likely to consume chocolate than dogs since cats do not have sweet taste receptors. But, if a cat eats chocolate, then the same rules hold true.
Until next time,
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