Chocolate poisoning in dogs and cats

Téma: cat, dog,

Poisoning in pets is not that uncommon and there are more ways your pet can become intoxicated. The toxic substance can enter the body through the respiratory tract, through the skin, but probably the most common way we see dogs and cats is through oral ingestion – that is, finding something unsuitable and ingesting it. Often these are human medicines, insecticides, veterinary products/drugs, household cleaners etc, plants, rodenticides, fertilizers and last but not least food. The most common food causing poisoning is chocolate.

Chocolate is toxic not only to dogs but also to cats. It contains caffeine and theobromine, a caffeine-like substance. Both of these substances are classified as methylxanthines and are also found in coffee, but in opposite amounts. Theobromine is found in higher amounts in chocolate. It is slowly eliminated from the body and has a dual effect on the body. Firstly, it occupies the receptors for adenosine, which regulates the heart rhythm and can therefore cause heart rhythm disturbances that can be fatal. In addition, it also increases the amount of calcium in the heart cells, which can amplify heart contractions. For this reason, patients with heart and circulatory diseases are more at risk. If an animal is given chocolate even in small quantities for a long time, theobromine can accumulate in the body and poisoning can take several days to manifest itself. The lethal dose of theobromine for a cat is about 200 mg/kg bw and for a dog about 300 mg/kg bw. These values are approximate and refer to healthy animals. Caffeine has the advantage of being more rapidly metabolised in the dog. It has similar effects on the body as theobromine, but also stimulates nervous tissue, which can result in convulsions. The lethal dose of caffeine for a cat is approximately 80-150 mg/kg, for a dog 100-200 mg/kg. As chocolate contains high levels of fat, it can also cause acute pancreatitis.

How does chocolate poisoning manifest itself?

Clinical signs depend on the amount and type of chocolate ingested and can be as follows – vomiting, diarrhoea, restlessness, high heart rate, increased urine production, tremors, convulsions and unfortunately this can lead to exhaustion, heart failure and death of the animal.

First aid

The basic rule of thumb in virtually all poisonings is to determine the amount ingested, to prevent further exposure to the toxic substance. The sooner intoxication is addressed, the better the prognosis for the patient. Thus, in addition to removing the remaining chocolate, you can try to induce vomiting. However, this is usually not successful in the home (in some intoxications with other substances it may even be contraindicated!). It is therefore better to give activated charcoal or e.g. Enterozoo gel straight away, which should prevent further absorption into the body. The recommended dose of activated charcoal for dogs and cats is approximately 1-4 g/kg every 4-6 hours (i.e. approximately 3-13 activated charcoal tablets per 1 kg of animal weight).

And finally, some useful links…

In general, the darker the chocolate (more dark chocolate), the more methylxanthines will be contained in it and thus the risk of intoxication increases. To simplify things, there are so-called chocolate calculators available on the internet that can help you to at least roughly determine whether the amount of chocolate consumed by your animal is dangerous or not. However, if you are not sure,

it’s always best to consult an expert, so you can either contact your vet or, if necessary, a poison control centre.

  • Toxicology Information Centre – NON STOP for humans and animals
    • 224 91 92 93 or 224 91 54 02
  • Chocolate calculator – calculate the toxic amount of chocolate
    • in Czech
      • § for dogs –
      • § for cats –
    • in English for dogs –