Toxic Chocolate: how to protect your pet from poisoning

Did you know that a small bar of dark chocolate could be deadly for your pet?

Our Animal Wellbeing Report surveys vets and pet owners across the country each year. In 2017 we found that some pets were still being given chocolate as a treat every month – even though it could be deadly.

Why is chocolate so bad for pets?

Chocolate contains something called theobromine which is very harmful to our pets. Chocolate with a higher cocoa solid content has more theobromine in it. You can find out how much cocoa solid is in a chocolate bar by checking the ingredients. High quality, dark chocolate is usually the most toxic to your pet but keep all chocolate away from pets to be safe.


Which pets are at risk?

A lot of people already know that chocolate is toxic to dogs but it can be deadly for other pets, too, including cats and rabbits. 

Most of the cases of chocolate poisoning we see each year involve dogs. Dogs are naturally curious and are opportunists when it comes to food, meaning they’ll eat anything they find. This is why they’re more at risk from any chocolate left in easy reach.

Our vets see pets who’re suffering from chocolate poisoning all year round. But with more chocolate in our homes at Easter and Christmas, we see more cases at these times of year.


The signs and symptoms of chocolate poisoning 

You’ll usually notice the effects of chocolate poisoning within 4 hours of your pet eating it. These symptoms can last for up to 24 hours.

If you think your pet has eaten chocolate, you should contact your vet for advice immediately. The sooner any treatment begins, the less severe the effects will be for your pet. Keep the chocolate packaging to hand so your vet will have an idea of how serious your pet’s poisoning might be.

At first, you might notice your pet is:

  • thirsty and drinking more than usual
  • being sick
  • has runny poo
  • has a sore, tender tummy and doesn’t want to be touched there
  • is very restlessness and won’t settle.

As the poisoning gets worse you might notice you pet is:

  • shaking and trembling
  • has an unusual and irregular heartbeat
  • feels like they have a temperature
  • is panting or breathing quickly.

In really severe cases your pet can start to have a fit and might suffer from kidney failure. If the worst comes to the worst, your pet could die from eating chocolate.


Keeping chocolate away from pets

Most cases of chocolate poisoning happen when your pet accidentally gets hold of chocolate while you’re not looking. Try to store chocolate in the same way as you would medicine or cleaning products – safely, securely and well away from your pets.

If you’re giving chocolate as a gift to a pet owner, let them know they’ll need to keep it out of reach of curious paws.

Easter egg hunts are really popular during Easter. If you’re thinking of having one, keep pets out of the way during the hunt and while you set it up. Make a note of where all the eggs where hidden so you can check they’ve all be found before you let you pets back into the area.


Alternatives to chocolate

We understand that you want to include your pet in festivities and family events but it’s never worth risking your pet’s life. If you want to include them at Christmas or Easter, here are some safe alternatives to feeding them chocolate:

  • A healthy, pet-safe treat. There are lots of healthy treats made for pets. This is a much better option that giving them human food. Be careful though – feeding your pet too many treats alongside their normal food can make them put on weight.
  • A new toy. Your pet will really appreciate a new toy. It will last much longer than a piece of food and will keep them happily occupied.
  • Your love and attention. This is what your pet wants more than anything. They don’t need any food treats (especially not toxic chocolate) so long as they’re loved and looked after.

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