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Why chocolate is a no-no for pets, unless it is pet specific chocolate

With Easter around the corner, chocolate sales and consumption is set to sky rocket. While this may only mean a few extra pounds or cavities for you, the consequences for pets can be far more serious and even life threatening. When it comes to chocolate, rather exercise selfishness and spend a few moments educating yourself on the reasons for chocolate being an absolute no-no for pets, including cats who are often overlooked when considering the forbidden foods list.

While the sugar and caffeine pose their own health risks for pets the real concern is the natural stimulant, theobromine, found in cocoa beans. Acting as a diuretic and cardiac & central nervous system stimulant is causes a loss of body fluid and increases the heart rate. Because pets do not have the required enzymes in their bodies to metabolise theobromine as efficiently as humans, levels build up to toxic levels, which can be lethal to pets.

Various factors contribute to the level of poisoning, such as the size of the animal, type of chocolate consumed (dark chocolate being the worst) and the amount ingested. As a rough guide, doses of about 100 – 150mg of theobromine per kg of bodyweight is considered toxic,

Despite all your efforts to keep your pets out of your chocolate stock pile, they’ve managed to indulge – what now?

It’s always recommended to play it safe, rather than sorry, by making contact with your vet for professional advice and if symptoms of chocolate poisoning are noted, do not delay in taking your pet in for a consultation. These symptoms include extreme thirst and energy, diarrhoea, pacing, panting and shaking, which leads to increased urination, tremors & seizures and a racing heart which may ultimately result in a “heart attack.”

Aid your vet with a fast reaction by being equipped with information:

  1. How much chocolate was eaten?

  2. What type of chocolate (wrappers will be useful)?

  3. How much time has passed since ingestion?

  4. A sample of their vomit may also be helpful.

With all this in mind, chocolate should never be given as a reward. Rather opt for pet-appropriate treats and specially formulated pet chocolates, suitable for pet consumption; choosing a PFI (Pet Food Industry Association of Southern Africa) member brand will give you the peace of mind that you’re feeding a treat that’s been produced with your pets’ health and wellbeing as the primary focus.


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