Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching. It is possible to have both a joyous, chocolate filled holiday and pets if the risks of chocolate toxicity are acknowledged and the proper precautions are taken to avoid it.

Chocolate is toxic to both dogs and cats. Chocolate is toxic because it contains the chemical theobromine, as well as caffeine. Theobromine and caffeine act as both a diuretic and a stimulant. Because dogs and cats are unable to metabolize chocolate in the same way that humans do, it builds up to dangerously high levels in their system causing adverse side effects and sometimes death.

Clinical signs, or symptoms, of chocolate toxicity in dogs and cats can present in several ways and varies on the amount and type of chocolate consumed. The most common clinical signs are vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, increased urination, panting, restlessness, and an increased heart rate. Advanced clinical signs are muscle tremors, seizures, acute heart failure, and death. Symptoms can take several hours to present and can last for days. Theobromine has a long half-life, meaning it lasts in the bloodstream for longer periods of time. It is also often reabsorbed by the bladder causing symptoms to be prolonged.

The severity of chocolate toxicity is dependent on the type and amount of chocolate consumed, as well as the size of the dog or cat that has consumed it. Baking chocolate, dark chocolate, and cacao are the most potent types of chocolate containing approximately 130-450mg of theobromine per ounce. Milk chocolate has a moderate amount at 44-58mg per ounce. White chocolate contains significantly less at 0.25mg per ounce. Even if your pet consumes white chocolate and has a low likelihood of chocolate toxicity, they are risk of pancreatitis and other adverse side effects from the sugar and fat content.

Any amount of chocolate is potentially dangerous for your pet. Keep chocolate out of your pet’s reach to ensure their safety. Do not wait for clinical signs to arise if your pet has consumed chocolate. Seek medical advice and/or attention immediately to prevent potentially fatal consequences. Do not forget a bag of your pet’s favorite treats when picking out a Valentine’s gift to ensure the holiday can be safely enjoyed by all.

If in need of urgent or emergency veterinary care, please call 775-738-6116 during hours or 775-388-8250 after business hours.