The Dangers of Valentine’s Day Chocolate For Cats and Dogs

Cats, Dogs, Emergency Situations

Valentine’s Day is a fun holiday, but it also poses a potential problem for both cats and dogs. A big part of Valentine’s Day involves chocolate, which can be toxic to your pets.

Chocolate Contains Chemicals That Are Harmful to Dogs and Cats

Theobromine is the chemical in chocolate that is toxic. It is similar to caffeine. Dogs cannot process theobromine and caffeine as well as people. This leads to clinical signs, such as increased heart rate, agitation, drooling, hyperactivity, and gastrointestinal distress. High doses can potentially lead to seizures and sometimes death.

Darker Chocolates Are More Dangerous

There are several types of chocolate, ranging from milk chocolate to darker varieties. The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is to your pet. These chocolates are more concentrated in theobromine.

White Chocolate is High in Fat and Sugar

White chocolate is not as dangerous as it has low levels of theobromine. The problem with the ingestion of white chocolate is fat and sugar, which could lead to another problem, pancreatitis. Some treats are advertised as having chocolate, but the ingredient they are referencing is “Carob” which is often used as a chocolate substitute. It is often confused with chocolate.

What to do if Your Pet Has Eaten Chocolate

If your pet has eaten chocolate, contact your veterinarian or Poison Control Hotline. They use a special calculator to determine if the concentration and amount ingested is toxic. If a toxic amount was ingested, see your veterinarian immediately.

Treating a Pet For Chocolate Poisoning

Treatment for this depends on when the chocolate was ingested. If caught early, vomiting with certain medications can be induced. Next, your veterinarian will give the patient activated charcoal to help bind up the theobromine and prevent it from being absorbed by the body. This can be done every 4-6 hours. IV fluids can also be administered for supportive care to help the body excrete more of the toxin.

So enjoy Valentine’s day, but keep the chocolate away from your pets!

– Dr. Anne Hicks, DVM

Essex Middle River Veterinary Center provides medical and surgical care for cats and dogs at our animal hospital and veterinary clinic in Essex, Maryland, just outside of Baltimore. Our services include preventive wellness care exams, vaccines, spays/neuters, and a variety of specialized care. Our state-of-the-art veterinary offices are conveniently located near I-695 where we see pets from Towson, Honeygo, White Marsh, and other neighboring Baltimore areas.

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