(Pet) Death by Chocolate - Crossroads Animal HospitalWe have all heard the statement “don’t give your dog or cat chocolate” because you can kill him or her. The truth is that while chocolate can kill pets, it usually just makes them sick with diarrhea, vomiting and restlessness. The severity of the illness depends on the amount and type of chocolate consumed, and your pet’s body weight. While a Labrador may have minor, or even no symptoms from eating a certain amount of chocolate, a Dachshund may have severe symptoms from consuming the same amount as the Labrador.

The problem is that chocolate contains a couple of drugs in the methylxanthine category. One is our can’t-live-without favorite: caffeine, and the other is called theobromine. Theobromine is the bigger and naughtier culprit here. These drugs are also bronchodilators, which will open the airways and stimulate the heart rate. In short, the will wind up Rover and make him feel jittery.

What Should I Look For?

Typical mild to moderate symptoms happen within 6-12 hours of eating the chocolate. Mild to moderate symptoms include excessive drinking, diarrhea, vomiting and excitability/restlessness. More severe symptoms include shaking/tremors, agitation, stiffness in the limbs, ataxia (wobbly), seizures, and may ultimately progress to collapse, coma, and even death. (Death usually occurs from cardiac arrhythmias.)

True or False: Dark chocolate is more dangerous for your pet than milk chocolate

TRUE! The darker the chocolate, the more theobromine and caffeine it contains. Here is a list of chocolates ranked from most dangerous to least dangerous*:
1. Cocoa powder
2. Baker’s chocolate
3. Semisweet chocolate
4. Instant cocoa mix powder
5. Milk chocolate
6. White chocolate

Keep in mind, it is still not safe to give your pet white chocolate. It does contain methylxanthines, fats, and sugars, which most pets aren’t used to eating.

So, the lesson for Rover is to “stay away from the dark side,” especially this Halloween!

If you know that your pet got into your kids’ Halloween chocolate, or you even suspect that he or she has, please consult your veterinarian. Be sure and note, and if possible, bring in the wrappers so the type of chocolate can be identified. This will allow your vet to calculate the severity of toxicosis or at the very least estimate it based on the estimated amount and type of chocolate.

I hope you have a safe Halloween, and remember to keep all of those treats out of your pet’s reach so they do not get tricked.

From Crossroads Animal Hospital in Colorado Springs, Colorado, I’m Dr. Craig Hyden reminding you to care for your pet and consult your vet.

*From Clinical Veterinary Advisor, Etienne Cote