Pets Can Die from Chocolate Poisoning

Pets Can Die from Chocolate Poisoning, Valentine’s Day, a holiday often associated with gifts of chocolates, poses special risks to your pets. That’s because most dogs, and some cats, will eagerly eat candy or baked goods left within reach. Chocolate is poisonous to both dogs and cats who eat enough of it because of two chemicals it contains: theobromine and caffeine.

The severity of chocolate poisoning will depend upon two things: the amount consumed relative to the pet’s weight, and the kind of chocolate in the candy or baked goods. Different forms of chocolate have very different amounts of the chemicals. Semi-sweet and dark sweetened chocolates have higher amounts; milk chocolate and white chocolate have the least. Chocolates used in cooking, like dry cocoa powder and unsweetened baking chocolate, contain the highest amounts of theobromine and caffeine.

A pet that eats a large amount of chocolate may not appear sick immediately, but will generally begin to show signs of poisoning within six to 12 hours. Early signs of chocolate poisoning include restlessness, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating and excessive thirst. Left untreated, the animal may develop an unsteady gait, shaking/tremors, panting, fever and coma. Sadly, pets can die from chocolate poisoning.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the nation’s 57 poison centers fielded more than 90,000 calls about dogs and cats in 2010, including calls about exposures to chocolate. The following steps can help pet owners keep their pets safe from chocolate poisoning:

- Keep all forms of chocolate securely stored up and out of reach. Their keen sense of smell allows pets to find packages of candy and baked goods even if wrapped well in plastic, so don’t leave that gift box or bag on the sofa or coffee table.

- Don’t let your pet lick the mixing bowl or spoon if the recipe includes cocoa powder or other baking chocolates: brownies and chocolate cakes are examples.

Keeping your pets safe from chocolate poisoning will help ensure a happy Valentine’s Day!

The American Association of Poison Control Centers supports the nation’s 57 poison centers in their efforts to prevent and treat poison exposures. Poison centers offer free, private, confidential medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We take calls in more than 150 languages and from the hearing impaired.

For questions about poison or if you think someone has been exposed to a poison, call 1-800-222-1222 to reach your local poison center.
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