Pet Peeves: How could something that tastes so good be so bad?

Lynsey Kitching
Have you ever seen a dog after they’ve indulged in some of that sweet, melty deliciousness, otherwise known as chocolate? I have, and before this I was never sure if it was a truth or fiction that dogs had trouble digesting chocolate.

I was living in Hamilton with some friends and a dog named Spruce. It was the Christmas season and Spruce’s owner loves Christmas…and loves giving presents!

She had been creating gift bags all week and was almost finished them all. They looked so pretty and just so, all lined up ready to be handed out at her family party.

A few nights before Christmas, I came home, “Hello, anyone home?” I heard no response, but then I looked down at the floor. ‘What the…” I thought to myself.

The remnants of destruction were all around—little pieces of tinfoil, cards thrown around, wrapping paper everywhere. Knowing what had happened, in an inquisitive and concerned way I asked, “Spruce dog?…”

Then she appeared, still standing, full of chocolate balls and acting like she had pounded a bottle of CC on her own while everyone was at work. She had actually devoured who knows how many chocolates and was swaying like a drunken sailor on land.

Freaking out I immediately called the vet, who asked me how big the dog was, what kind of chocolate she ate, how much of it she ate. I did my best to answer the questions. Eventually everything was fine, however

Spruce Dog had to get her system cleaned out with charcoal, something I’m sure wasn’t very pleasant for her.

So what is the deal with chocolate and how dangerous is it for our pets?

The Canadian Veterinarians Medical Association (CVMA) explains, “Chocolate contains theobromine, an alkaloid similar to caffeine, which can be toxic to animals if fed to excess. Most dangerous is baking chocolate, which contains almost ten times the amount of theobromine that ordinary milk chocolate does. One ounce of baking chocolate or a two kg bag of chocolate pieces can be life-threatening to a five kg dog.

Put another way, the ingestion of approximately one-half kilogram (1.5 pounds) of milk chocolate would result in a potentially lethal dose for a 12 kg (25 pound) dog.”

Wow, good thing Spruce only got her paws on milk chocolate.

But what about cats? Could chocolate be lethal to them as well?

The CVMA says, “Dogs are more likely to become poisoned by eating chocolate than cats, probably because they like the sweet taste of chocolate and because cats tend to be fussier than dogs about what they will eat.”

So even though the chances of cats deciding to try the sweet smelling treat are smaller than with dogs, it can still harm them.

Some of the reactions in pets to having eaten too much chocolate include vomiting and diarrhea, restlessness, irregular heartbeat, hyperactivity, and frequent urination. The CVMA advises, “These signs usually appear about four to five hours after ingestion. More severe signs of chocolate toxicity include tremors, seizures, and death. Clinical signs may not appear for several hours after ingestion and complete recovery after veterinary care may take several days.”

There are so many factors and math involved in knowing whether your dog or cat has ingested too much chocolate.

The best thing to do is to call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-213-6680.