Just like dogs are allergic to chocolate, so are cats. Chocolate poisoning or Theobromine poisoning is an overdose reaction to the alkaloidtheobromine that is found in products such as chocolate, tea, cola beverages, acai berries among other foods. Cacao beans contain about 1.2% theobromine by weight, while processed chocolate, generally contains smaller amounts. Highly refined chocolate candies typically have smaller amounts than say that of dark chocolate or unsweetened chocolate used for baking.
Typically speaking, the amount of theobromine that is found in chocolate is small enough that it is able to be safely consumed by humans. However there have been some occasional side effects from the consumption of larger quantities, especially in the elderly. In extreme cases, emergency room treatment may be necessary.
Why Cats Are Allergic To Chocolate
The affects that chocolate have on domesticated animals is much more serious and this type of poisoning unfortunately has been known to happen accidentally and frequently on many occasions. One reason that chocolate is so dangerous for your feline friend to consume is because cats and other domesticated animals metabolize theobromine at much slower rates than we humans do. If large numbers of chocolate are consumed it can trigger life threatening pancreatic several days later.
Typically, the most common victims of chocolate poisoning are dogs, for which it can be fatal. However, the toxic dose for cats is even lower than for dogs. One good thing to note however is that cats are generally less prone to be found sneaking into chocolate since they are actually unable to taste sweetness.
Symptoms Of Theobromine/Chocolate Poisoning
Initially the first signs of theobromine poisoning are as follows and typically appear within 10 hours of ingestion:
- Increased urination
- Irregular heart rhythms
- Slow heart rate
Eventually the above symptoms can progress to:
- Cardiac Arrhythmias
- Epileptic Seizures
- Heart Attacks
- Internal Bleeding
What To Do If You Suspect Your Cat Has Ingested Chocolate
The basic rule to keep in mind when it comes to a cat consuming chocolate is that the more cocoa in the chocolate, the higher the levels of theobromine. Plain and/or dark chocolate contain more cocoa than milk chocolate and have 4.5 to 10 times more theobromine in them. The amount of theobromine in chocolate also varies from one manufacturer to the next.
The toxic dose of Theobromine for pets is 100-200 mg/kg. (1 kilogram equals 2.2 pounds). There are many charts that you can find online to help you figure out the amount of theobromine found in chocolate etc.
Rapid Response And Treatment
If you suspect that your cat has eaten a large quantity of chocolate there are certain steps that you can take to ensure that your pet is getting the best treatment necessary. They are as follows:
- Don’t panic! Panicking can interfere with the process of helping your pet.
- Take a few seconds to safely collect any have on hand any material involved in the accident. This may greatly benefit the situation when it comes time to talk to your vet or APCC toxicologists, as they may be able to determine what poisons are involved.
- In the event that your pet needs to be taken to a veterinarian if possible, take the product’s container or wrapper with you. Be sure to also collect in a sealable bag any material that your cat may have vomited or chewed.
If you witness your pet consuming toxic material do not hesitate to seek emergency assistance, even if you do not notice any symptoms. Sometimes, even if poisoned an animal may appear normal for several hours or even days after the incident. Time is of the essence when it comes to saving your cat’s life.
Call your local veterinarian or the ASPCA animal poison control center for more information. The telephone number for the ASPCA poison control center is (888) 426-3335. There is a $65 consultation fee for this service, but isn’t your cat’s life worth it?
Having the following information on hand is extremely helpful:
- The species, breed, age, sex, weight, and number of animals involved
- The animal’s symptoms
- Information regarding the exposure, including the agent, the amount of agent involved and the time elapsed since the time of exposure
- If possible have the product packaging available for reference
If your cat is losing consciousness, suffering from seizures, or is having difficulty breathing, telephone ahead and bring your cat to your local veterinarian or clinic immediately. Treatment can potentially save your cat’s life. This often includes inducing your cat to vomit, limiting the absorption of the toxin by administering activated charcoal as an absorbent, and/or administering intravenous fluid therapy to prevent dehydration. Your vet or poison control center will know what is best in this type of situation. Never ignore theobromine poisoning, this could make the difference in whether or not your cat lives or dies.
Preventing And Dealing With Future Kitty Emergencies
When it comes to preventing theobromine poisoning and other emergencies in the future it is a great idea to invest in an emergency first aid kit for kitty. This kit should include the following items:
- Phone numbers to your local veterinarian clinics, poison control centers, etc.
- A fresh bottle of hydrogen peroxide (3% USP) used to induce vomiting
- A turkey baster, bulb syringe or large medicine syringe (used to administer peroxide)
- Saline eye solution
- Artificial tear gel (this will be used to lubricate eyes after flushing)
- Dishwashing liquid (mild and grease cutting) – Will be used for bathing an animal after skin contamination
- Forceps to help remove stingers
- Muzzle (can be used to protect against fear or excitement induced biting during emergency)
- A can of your pet’s favorite wet food (can be used to calm the animal)
- A pet carrier