For the Love of Chocolate (And Your Pet)

It’s that time of year when people show you how much they love you with chocolate! Now, no one ever said this is a bad thing, because who doesn’t love some good chocolate?! This includes your pets. Chocolate is just as delicious to them as it is to their humans. However, dogs and cats are unable to process it and, in some cases, can even suffer chocolate toxicity if ingesting too much. 

What makes chocolate bad for my pet?

At this point you’re probably wondering what it is about chocolate that makes it toxic to your pet. Chocolate contains methylxanthines, such as caffeine and theobromine. These ingredients cause similar symptoms, but the effects of theobromine last much longer than those of caffeine.

Are all chocolates created equally?

A general rule of thumb with chocolate is that the darker it is the more harmful it is to your furry creatures. For example, milk chocolate is less likely to cause severe toxicity compared to darker chocolates, such as baking chocolate or raw cacao. 

What signs does chocolate cause?

The most common signs of chocolate ingestion are gastrointestinal (GI) signs such as vomiting and diarrhea. At higher doses signs may include pacing, restlessness, hyperexcitability, increased heart rate and abnormal rhythms, seizures, and in severe cases, possibly death. We don’t say this to scare you, as most cases have a good prognosis if treated in a timely manner.

What should I do if my pet ingested chocolate?

If you remember nothing else from this blog post, remember this–TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE! The sooner you are able to identify and treat chocolate toxicity, the better your pet’s prognosis will be. Always save the chocolate packaging if possible. You should first call poison control (ASPCA Poison Control, Pet Poison Hotline) to find out if the type and amount is potentially toxic to your pet. Often times the amount ingested only results in minor GI signs. If your pet’s ingestion is in the toxic range, you should seek veterinary treatment immediately. 

What if my pet ingested a potentially toxic amount of chocolate?

Seek veterinary care immediately. Making your pet vomit is typically the first line of therapy. This is done with an injection (or sometimes a crushed tablet) which almost instantaneously induces vomiting. This is to remove as much of the chocolate from your pet’s system as possible. From there, the extent of treatment depends on the severity of the toxicity. In less severe cases, your pet will probably be treated as an outpatient. In more severe cases,  fluid therapy (subcutaneous or intravenous), anti-nausea medications, medications to treat the abnormal heart rate/rhythm, and various other supportive care measures may be indicated. In general, your pet’s prognosis is good if they receive timely care.

Moral of the story: Eat all the chocolate right away (preferred), or keep it secure and out of your pet’s reach!

Helpful Links:

ASPCA Poison Control

Pet Poison


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Angelika Demers, CVT

Clinical Supervisor

Angelika started her animal health career in 2014 when she attended the University of Maine Augusta, Bangor campus, for Veterinary Technology. She graduated in early 2018 and became a Certified Veterinary Technician later that year. Her internship, and first veterinary field job, was at the MSPCA Angell in Boston, where she discovered her interest in emergency medicine. Throughout the years, she has continued to advance her knowledge in the field of emergency medicine, but also in cultivating relationships with patients and clients alike to offer the best quality care. Outside of work she likes hanging out with her cat, Mew, spending time outdoors, watching game shows, and photography.