The Risks of Chocolate

If your pet ingests a few chocolate-covered strawberries or an entire 10-pound box of assorted chocolates, immediately seek the advice of a veterinarian or an animal poison control hotline. This includes the ASPCA (888)426-4435 or the Pet Poison Helpline (855)764-7661.

Chocolate toxicity can harm a pet’s gastrointestinal (GI), cardiac, and central nervous systems and the initial signs can be seen 2 – 4 hours after ingestion.  Specific signs to look for include, but are not limited to: restlessness, panting, vomiting, urinary incontinence, and diarrhea. In severe cases, the ingestion of chocolate can lead to cardiac arrhythmias, tremors, seizures, comas, and even death.

Chocolate toxicity is caused by the ingestion of a methylxanthine chemical called theobromine and to a lesser degree, the caffeine contained in chocolate. These compounds occur naturally in cacao beans and a few of the most concentrated sources are unsweetened baking chocolate and cocoa powder.  Milk chocolate contains even less theobromine and white chocolate contains trace amounts, if any.  The severity of toxicosis is related to the amount ingested and the body weight of the pet in question.

Lastly, treatments for ingested chocolate include medical decontaminations and symptomatic treatments.