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Dogs, cats & chocolate

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 are more reported cases of dogs being affected since dogs typically 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 negatively affect them. While 3 ounces of milk chocolate can cause vomiting and diarrhea in a 20-pound dog, it takes about 11 ounces to cause the same effects in an 80-pound dog.1

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 consumes toxic amounts of chocolate will experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and restlessness.2

Treatment

Take pets with suspected chocolate poisoning to their veterinarian immediately. The veterinarian may 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, but is still bad for your cat or dog and should still be avoided.

Theobromine levels of different types of chocolate

Cocoa powder

    800 mg/oz in dry cocoa powder

bakers-chocolate

    450 mg/oz in unsweetened (baker's) chocolate

chocolate mulch

    255 mg/oz in cocoa bean mulch

Dark chocolate

    150-160 mg/oz in semi-sweet and sweet dark chocolate

Milk chocolate

    44-64 mg/oz in milk chocolate

White chocolate

    An insignificant amount in white chocolate

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. 

We know that accidents can and will happen, whether your cat gets a taste of your holiday chocolate or your dog is digging through your garden and ingests some cocoa mulch. This is why pet insurance just makes sense. Here are some chocolate-related claim examples from a few dogs insured by Trupanion who were able to get the veterinary care they needed without the worry of cost.

Sample claims

Mosby, 2-year-old Maltese

Diagnosis:Chocolate ingestion

Trupanion paid: $847.00
Rocky, 3-year-old Havanese

Diagnosis:Chocolate ingestion

Trupanion paid: $911.50
Moo Shu, French Bulldog puppy

Diagnosis:Chocolate toxicity

Trupanion paid: $2,378.00

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.