Dogs, Cats, and Chocolate

Dog photo

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Humans love chocolate for all occasions, whether it's birthdays, holidays, or any day in between. Unfortunately, chocolate in all forms is poisonous to our pets and should be kept away from them entirely.

Who is at risk?

Cats and dogs are both at risk of chocolate poisoning, however, there have been more reported cases of dogs being affected since dogs typically will eat just about anything. Smaller pets face much greater risk of chocolate toxicity than large breed dogs because it only takes a small amount of chocolate to affect them. While three ounces of milk chocolate can cause vomiting and diarrhea in a 20-pound dog, it takes about eleven ounces to cause the same effects in an 80-pound dog1.

What makes chocolate poisonous?

Chocolate and cocoa contain caffeine and a naturally occurring stimulant called theobromine which are both toxic to dogs and cats.

Signs

Theobromine and caffeine cause an increased heart rate. A pet that has consumed toxic amounts of chocolate will experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and restlessness2.

Treatment

Pets with suspected chocolate poisoning should be taken to their veterinarian immediately. It may help to induce vomiting. Active charcoal may be used to prevent absorption into the bloodstream.

Different types of chocolate

Dark chocolate contains more of the stimulants than milk chocolate, and unsweetened chocolate and baking chocolate contains even higher amounts which make them more dangerous. White chocolate contains only trace amounts of caffeine and theobromine.

Theobromine levels of different types of chocolate
Types of Chocolate Amount of Theobromine
Dry cocoa powder Dry cocoa powder 800 mg/oz
Unsweetened (Baker's) chocolate Baker's chocolate 450 mg/oz
Cocoa bean mulch Cocoa bean mulch 255 mg/oz
Semi-sweet and sweet dark chocolate Dark chocolate 150-160 mg/oz
Milk chocolate Milk chocolate 44-64 mg Theobromine per oz chocolate
White chocolate White chocolate An insignificant source of methylxanthines

Source: Merck Veterinary Manual Online

Where it can be found

Not only can chocolate be found in candy and baked goods, but also in our gardens. Households with pets should avoid gardening with cocoa bean mulch which also contains toxic amounts of theobromine.

Sample Claims

Mosby, 2-year-old Maltese
$847.00 for chocolate ingestion

Rocky, 3-year-old Havanese
$911.50 for chocolate ingestion

Moo Shu, French Bulldog puppy
$2,378.00 for chocolate toxicity

1. "The Chocolate Chart Interactive." National Geographic Magazine. Web. 30 Apr. 2012.

2. "Chocolate." The Merck Veterinary Manual. Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., a Subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc. Web. 30 Apr. 2012.