The holiday season is full of treats and goodies for everyone, and pets are no exception. With the plethora of food around, our four-legged friends often indulge themselves when no one is paying attention. It is extremely important, however, that your pets steer clear of chocolate treats. Most people have heard that their pets should not eat chocolate, but do you know why? Here is what you need to know…

What makes chocolate so bad?

The toxic properties of chocolate come from theobromine. This caffeine-like stimulant can cause serious problems in the body depending on how much is ingested. Chocolate can also have high concentrations of fat, which can cause digestive issues including pancreatitis; a condition that results in the sometimes life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas.

Chocolate that is artificially sweetened may also contain Xylitol, which can cause a life-threatening low blood sugar and liver damage.

What are signs of chocolate toxicity?

At lower doses, theobromine can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and hyperactivity. At increasing doses, tremors and seizures can also occur. At high doses an irregular heartbeat may occur. Untreated, this can lead to death.

How much chocolate does my pet need to ingest to be dangerous?

Different types of chocolates contain different amounts of theobromine. Baking chocolate is typically he most dangerous for pets, followed by semi-sweet, dark, then milk chocolate and finally flavored baked goods. The toxicity of a particular amount of chocolate also depends on the size of the pet ingesting it. As little as 4 ounces of milk chocolate (or only 0.5 oz of baking chocolate) can cause serious problems in a 10-pound dog.

What should I do if my pet ingests chocolate?

If you suspect your pet has ingested chocolate, try to estimate the amount and type and call your veterinarian or Animal Poison Control immediately. There is no antidote for chocolate toxicity.  Supportive care while the theobromine runs its course is needed in severe cases.