Fall Blues – Chocolate

As a veterinarian, the upcoming holiday season has its downside. Along with the joy and family, households become full of new foods, extra people and more opportunities for our pets to find themselves in trouble. During the next couple of months, my practice sees an increase in the number of household poisoning and accidents especially involving foods like chocolate.

Fortunately, we know exactly what about chocolate causes cats and dogs to become sick and the dosage that does it. The first part of chocolate that hurts our pets is theophylline. Theophylline is a compound in chocolate that is absorbed in the stomach and alters the electrolytes within the body. The second part of chocolate that is dangerous is caffeine. Caffeine is a strong stimulant. Together, theophylline and caffeine can lead to signs of illness in increasing the severity and possibly leading to death.

Common signs usually start within six to twelve hours after eating and include…

  • Over-drinking water
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating of the stomach and abdomen
  • Restlessness/hyperactivity
  • Heart malfunction
  • Staggering, struggling to walk
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

How seriously your pet is affected is determined by three things.

  1. How much your pet weighs
  2. What kind of chocolate they ate
  3. How much chocolate they ate

Chocolate toxicity is based on how much your pet ate and how much they weigh. Bakers chocolate and dark chocolate can be fatal at one to two small pieces whereas milk chocolate is a little less potent. Regardless, if you believe your pet has ingested chocolate try to figure out when the ingestion happened, how much they ate and what kind of chocolate it was. Call your veterinarian immediately and discuss the potential of your pet needing medical attention.

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