Chocolate Toxicity In Dogs And Cats: Keeping Pets Safe This Easter

this sick golden dog at the vet might have suffered from chocolate toxicity

Kids all over Australia are dreaming of a holiday where chocolate is an acceptable breakfast. Easter is fast approaching, and with that comes Easter egg hunts and chocolate-themed gifts in abundance. If you have pets, being mindful of chocolate toxicity in dogs and cats can stop your Easter holiday taking a turn for the worse.

Most people know dogs shouldn’t eat chocolate, but some are surprised to hear our favourite Easter snack is also poisonous to cats. Here we look at what causes chocolate toxicity in dogs and cats, as well as its symptoms and exactly when you should be concerned.

Let’s start by finding out why our pets can’t dive into the Easter eggs with us. And while we’re tacking chocolate poisoning in dogs and cats, find out about some other common things that can poison your pet.

Why is chocolate toxic to dogs and cats?

Chocolate toxicity is caused by an ingredient called theobromine. This is completely harmless to humans, but dogs and cats aren’t able to metabolise it in the same way as us.

Simply put, dogs and cats take a long time to metabolise theobromine. This means that if they eat a large amount of chocolate, theobromine can build up in their systems and cause toxicity. That toxicity can reach a level whereby it causes chocolate poisoning in pets.

Chocolate also contains caffeine, which is another problematic ingredient for both dogs and cats. Just like theobromine, our pets can’t effectively metabolise caffeine.

Wondering what other foods to beware of? We know it’s Easter and not Christmas, but if you’re planning a feast, check out what our article on Christmas Dinner For Pets: What They Can And Can’t Eat.

How much chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats?

If your pet gets into the Easter stash, you’ll probably find yourself frantically searching to find out how much chocolate is necessary to cause harm to your pet.

The short answer is that it depends on both the type of chocolate and the size of your pet. One chocolate bar is much less likely to cause toxic levels of theobromine to a large pet than a small one. So yes, a large Rottweiler could get away with sneaking into the chocolate stash more easily than a Chihuahua.

You can get a good idea of what level of chocolate is dangerous by using this chocolate toxicity calculator. Though of course, if you’re not sure, it’s best to seek medical attention from a vet.

Is white chocolate poisonous to dogs and cats?

Why would the type of chocolate make any difference? Theobromine levels are higher in some chocolates. Dark chocolate, cooking chocolate, and anything with significant amounts of cocoa have significantly higher levels of it, whereas milk and white chocolate pose a lower risk.  

A small amount of chocolate might make your pet sick, but probably won’t cause any lasting ill-effects. So if your Labrador has snuck a bite of your white chocolate Easter egg, he’s probably going to be fine. But if your cat has broken into the fridge and helped themselves to plenty of the Easter goodies, a trip to the vet is in order.

dogs are more likely to suffer from chocolate toxicity as they are more curious but this tabby cat on the kitchen counter might be looking for food

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs

Let’s say you’re unsure if your dog got hold of some choccies, but he definitely has that guilty face on and the pantry door is open…. What are the signs and symptoms of chocolate toxicity in dogs?

Below are some symptoms to look out for which may indicate chocolate poisoning:

  • vomiting (which may include blood)
  • diarrhoea
  • hyperactivity
  • drooling
  • increased thirst
  • rapid breathing
  • muscle tension
  • loss of coordination
  • seizures
  • rapid heart rate

If you spot these symptoms of chocolate poisoning, don’t delay – take them straight to your local vet.

Signs of chocolate toxicity in cats

The signs of chocolate toxicity are the same in cats as they are in dogs.

Remember that because cats are usually smaller, they may exhibit more severe symptoms than dogs. And their weight means a smaller amount of chocolate is poisonous to them than your big canine friends.

If in doubt, go to the vet

When your pet has eaten chocolate, try to stay calm. If you suspect or know your pet has eaten a large amount of chocolate, get to the vet right away. Unless it’s a small amount – then call your vet with details and ask whether you should bring them in for an examination.

If possible, keep the chocolate packaging so your vet has more information to go on.

Prompt treatment with pet insurance

If you have pet insurance, deciding whether to seek treatment for your dog or cat doesn’t have to be financially motivated. Instead, you’ll have a soft landing to help you make care-based decisions for your furry family member.

Chocolate toxicity in dogs and cats – over to you

Have you ever had a pet get hold of your chocolate? Let us know what happened and how you spotted the signs by leaving a comment.

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