Holiday Safety: Chocolate Edition!

Chocolate Safety



Happy holidays, CHS Supporters!

With the cold weather blowing in recently it’s starting to feel a lot more like winter. Burr. We hope you are inside and staying warm with your furry family members as you get ready to celebrate!

Each year we get many questions during the holiday season about how to keep pets safe, so this month on the blog we’ll be sharing a few of the more common or unique questions we get! If you would like to ask a question about holiday safety, connect with us on our Facebook page! Today on the blog, we’re bringing you everything you need to know about chocolate and your pets!

Mmm, chocolate! A favourite holiday staple, but a toxic treat for Fluffy or Fido. Here are some of the most common questions we hear about chocolate:

Why is chocolate bad for pets?

Chocolate contains chemicals called methylxanthines. In chocolate, these methylxanthines are theobromine and caffeine. If eaten in large enough quantities, methylxanthines can be toxic for people, but it would likely be almost impossible to eat the amount of chocolate it would take to cause toxic effects in humans – if you weighed 80 kilograms you’d need to eat almost 6 kilos of dark, unsweetened chocolate or 40 kilos (half your body weight!) of milk chocolate. Unfortunately, dogs and cats are far more sensitive to methylxanthines than humans are, so they can experience toxic effects from much smaller amounts.

Does the type of chocolate matter?

Absolutely. The type of chocolate dictates how much caffeine and theobromine it contains, so certain types of chocolate will definitely be more toxic compared to others. Generally the darker and more bitter the chocolate the more harmful it will be to your pet.

What are the signs that my pet is experiencing toxic effects from chocolate?

The first signs of accidental poisoning with chocolate (theobromine toxicity) are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and increased urination. If your pet eats enough chocolate they may also experience seizures, internal bleeding, heart attacks, cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart beat) and even death. Symptoms can last up to 72 hours in some cases.

What should I do if I think my pet has eaten chocolate?

Any time you suspect a pet may have eaten something that is potentially toxic, your first call should be to your pet’s veterinarian. Your pet’s vet can assess the danger to your pet and provide further advice on whether your pet will require a vet visit or if you can monitor them at home.

What about those fancy holiday cookies for dogs? They look like they have chocolate on them…

Great observation! What you are likely seeing in those dog cookies is carob or carob chips. Carob chips look like chocolate chips and they taste a little like chocolate too, but they do not pose the same danger to pets. Carob chips are also fine for people to eat and sold in most major grocery stores, so if you like them you can use them to replace chocolate chips in your human treats too! One word of caution though – carob chips still contain sugar, so if your dog has a sensitive stomach you will want to exercise caution!