Chocolate Toxicity: Why Not to Share Your Valentine’s Day Candy

By Dr. Tracy Appelbaum, Managing Veterinarian

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching most of us will have the usual mix of chocolate boxes and chocolate candy laying around the house. It’s important to note that while these gifts are enjoyed by most people, pets are also attracted to the taste and smell of these treats and they will probably beg you for a taste. Unfortunately, sharing your chocolate with your four-legged friend can have devastating consequences, so it’s important to keep these delights out of their reach.

Chocolate is made from cacao seeds which contain both theobromine and caffeine. The darker the chocolate the more theobromine and caffeine are present. For this reason, it’s much more concerning if your pet ingests baker’s chocolate versus white chocolate.

If these substances are ingested they usually take anywhere from 3-12 hours to take effect. Theobromine causes the release of epinephrine and norepinephrine which in turn make your pet’s heart rate increase and can induce an abnormal heart rhythm. Other side effects noted from ingestion of these substances are tremors and seizures which can progress to death if left untreated. Processed chocolate contains fat and sugar that can cause gastrointestinal signs, such as, vomiting and diarrhea. Some animals will develop a very severe form of gastrointestinal upset called pancreatitis which also can result in a fatal outcome.

What should you do if your family companion ingests chocolate? Immediately take your pet to your veterinarian for treatment. Calling ahead is a good idea because sometimes there are treatments that can be started at home to reduce the side effects experienced by your pet, such as, inducing vomiting. It’s important to treat as soon as the ingestion is known about and to take note of the type and amount of chocolate ingested. It is also important to have an idea of the approximate weight of your pet. Once assessed, treatment will begin accordingly and can vary from monitoring at home to hospitalization with intravenous fluids and medications depending on severity of your pet’s clinical signs.

In conclusion, while it may be hard to resist your critter’s pleading eyes it’s very important not to treat your pet to any of your Valentine’s Day goodies. Keep all chocolate out of reach of their grasp and sealed completely. Should your family friend still manage to get a mouthful of your delicious Valentine’s treats make sure you get to your veterinarian right away!


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