Why is Chocolate Bad For Animals?

understand the causes when your pets eat the chocolate

Most pet owners will tell you that they will go to any lengths for their furry friends. And there are whole industries that make use of that dedication — things like doggie spas and cat luxury hotels (seriously). There are also clothing lines, gourmet raw food brands, and countless gadgets, toys, and treats to give your pet that extra something special. (Pets really have things figured out.)

But the bond between a human and their pet knows no bounds. The thought of a pet getting hurt or sick is devastating. But it happens. While sometimes a pet’s health is out of our control, there are some things we can do to help our pets stay in good shape. We checked Technobark, and decided to provide our opinion on that topic.

One of those things is to keep chocolate away from them!

Most people have heard the statement that chocolate is bad, even poisonous, for animals. So they take it at face value, making sure to keep their delicious dark chocolate in the cupboard and the chocolate cake safely stored in the fridge.

But what’s really behind that statement? Is it actually true or is it an old wives’ tale?

Let’s take a look at why chocolate is actually bad for your pets, and we’ll dispel some myths along the way.

2 Myths of Chocolate is Bad For Your Pets

Myth 1 – Chocolate Will Kill My Pet

It’s true that chocolate is bad for your animal if they eat it, but chocolate in small to medium doses likely won’t kill them. However, taken in large quantities, and depending on the size of the pet, it most certainly can result in a terrible situation, even death.

What’s so bad about chocolate? Well, there’s nothing inherently bad about chocolate. But it does contain chemicals called methylxanthines, specifically theobromine and caffeine, which come from the cocoa bean. In people, these ingredients are easily digested, but in animals, theobromine is much more slowly metabolized so the toxicity has a strong effect on them. Both of these chocolate components can speed the heart rates and stimulate the nervous systems of dogs and cats.

Symptoms likely won’t appear immediately and can take up to 6-12 hours to start showing up, and side effects can last for up to 72 hours. Keep a close eye on your pet if you notice some chocolate has disappeared.

 

Eating chocolate with high levels of methylxanthines might result in your pet:

  • vomiting
  • having diarrhea
  • behaving hyperactively
  • increased urination
  • having an increased heart rate or abnormal heart rhythm
  • experiencing shaking, tremors, or seizures

 

Without treatment, your pet will likely be in some distress for a few hours once the toxicity makes its way through their system. Once it passes, they will likely be fine.

 

In the very worst of cases, with a high level of ingestion, your pet may be at risk of death. It’s also correct to assume that there is a ratio to consider. A smaller dog who eats a lot of chocolate (ie. a Chihuahua + an entire dark chocolate cake) is in a lot more trouble than a big dog eating a little bit (ie. a Rottweiler + a few Smarties).

 

However, if you notice your cat or dog looking at you sheepishly beside a chewed up chocolate wrapper, it’s imperative that you take action by calling your vet or taking your pet to the vet immediately.

 

Myth 2: All Types of Chocolate are Equally Bad For My Pet

 

As we chocolate aficionados know, not all chocolate is created equal. There is high-quality dark chocolate made by chocolatiers created to be savoured, across the range to Halloween candy meant to be devoured. It turns out that some chocolate is worse for animals than others.

 

It depends on the amount of theobromine in the chocolate in question. Darker, less sweet chocolate has higher levels of theobromine, therefore, affects animals in a worse way. Sweet milk chocolate is less harmful, and white chocolate does not really have any kind of harmful effect (since it doesn’t contain theobromine).

 

Here is a list of common chocolate products, listed in order of toxicity for cats and dogs from highest to lowest.

  1. Cocoa powder
  2. Unsweetened baker’s chocolate
  3. Semisweet chocolate
  4. Dark chocolate
  5. Milk chocolate
  6. White chocolate

 

How to Prevent Your Dog or Cat From Eating Chocolate?

 

Mistakes happen in life, and especially in the world of pet ownership. Every animal owner will have a story or two about that time their cat got trapped somewhere crazy or their dog found the stash of chocolate chips.

 

There are some common-sense precautions we can take to keep your pet safe and healthy:

Precautions To Keep Your Pet Safe

1. Store Chocolate Properly

Dogs are known for their keen sense of smell and many are pups who are entirely food motivated. They know no bounds if they catch a scent they think they can get at — they will paw open cupboards and easily eat their way through wrappers. So it’s best to store chocolate in an airtight container on a high shelf behind a door that closes firmly.

 

2. Train Your Pet

Every pet owner has a responsibility to put the time in to train their animal, especially dogs (cats are a little harder). It’s better for both the dog and the owner, as well as the people and other animals in the community, for a dog to be obedient and understand certain commands. Believe it or not, there are pet dogs that will leave food alone, stay in their crate while the owner is out of the house, and “leave it” when told to.

 

In conclusion, chocolate, in all its many forms, is the perfect treat for humans to enjoy. But as far as animals and furry friends go, keep it away. There is plenty of gourmets, safe treats for pets to dine on so keep the animals safe and keep the custom chocolate for yourself.