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What to do if your pet eats chocolate


10th Feb 2020 Animals & Pets

What to do if your pet eats chocolate

Delicious for humans, but extremely damaging for our fluffy friends, here's what to do if your pet ingests chocolate this Valentine's. 

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, chocolates of every description are hitting the shelves. Unfortunately, for those of us with pets, this influx of confectionary can also bring some risks.

It’s every owner’s nightmare that their pet will snack on their potentially harmful Valentine’s selection box, especially if it has been hidden ahead of the special day, so it’s important to know what to do if your animal sniffs them out!

valentine's dog

Chocolate poisoning is most common in dogs, but other animals, such as cats, rabbits and birds, can also be susceptible. To ensure that you can have an enjoyable Valentine’s Day without a pet crisis, Dr Jessica May, the lead vet at video vet service FirstVet, shares her top tips for keeping your fluffy friends out of danger.


Different types of chocolate have different risks

dog cuddles up for valentines

Any product containing cocoa can be potentially dangerous to pets and, as a rule of thumb, the higher the cocoa content of a product, the more toxic it is.

This means that dark chocolate presents the biggest health hazard for your animal, while white chocolate is much less toxic, as it contains less theobromine (the chemical commonly found in cocoa, which makes chocolate dangerous for some animals).

keep your cat safe over valentine's

Nonetheless, if you are lucky enough to be given any chocolate on the big day, it is still best to keep these treats out of your animal’s reach. Should even a little be ingested, I’d recommend monitoring your pet closely, and that you consider consulting your vet.

It is important to remember that symptoms of chocolate consumption might not be apparent straight away, as the chemicals in chocolate are processed slowly, over a number of hours. I’d always prefer that a pet owner is over-cautious and contacts me immediately, rather than waiting for symptoms to occur.


Symptoms to be aware of

symptoms of a sick dog

Although their appetite for the sweet stuff may vary, dogs, cats, birds and rabbits all suffer the same symptoms if they eat chocolate. Cats are less likely to develop a taste for chocolate than dogs because they don’t tend to have a sweet tooth, but chocolate is still dangerous to pets regardless of their enthusiasm for it.

Vomiting and diarrhoea are two of the most obvious symptoms of chocolate poisoning, but Pet Food Sherpa  state that you should also lookout for any signs of restlessness, wobbliness or stomach-ache. Chocolate can also make animals drink and salivate more than usual, or cause changes in their heart rate.

More severe cases of chocolate poisoning can cause involuntary urination, muscle tremors and seizures. If your pet is displaying any of these symptoms, it’s best to get them to a vet straight away.


How to treat chocolate poisoning

what to do if your cat eats chocolate

The good news is that chocolate poisoning is usually very treatable, as long as you get to the vets in good time. In milder cases of chocolate poisoning, an anti-toxin absorbent, such as activated charcoal, maybe enough to combat the issue. More extreme cases might necessitate induced vomiting or administration of an intravenous drip.

As with most things: prevention is better than a cure! If you are planning on surprising your Valentine with a homemade chocolate cake, make sure it is beyond the reach of any mischievous paws.

Please also be careful about putting uneaten chocolate in the bin, in case an adventurous pet goes foraging for food. Above all, be mindful of the way that you store and eat your chocolates, thus allowing you and your loved one to enjoy Valentine’s Day without any pet-related disasters!

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