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No Chocolate Please!

With Halloween over and other candy-friendly holidays on the horizon, it’s a good time to remember that chocolate is quite toxic to both dogs and cats and should always be kept out of their reach.

Dogs, Cats & Chocolate
Cocoa comes from the seeds of the Theobroma cacao, which are roasted and ground to produce what we call cocoa. The trouble with chocolate boils down to a type of component called methylxanthines, which in chocolate includes caffeine and theobromine. The digestive system of human beings can break down these elements efficiently but the same is not true of dogs and cats. The concentration of methylxanthines in chocolate is proportional to the amount of cocoa – i.e. it is higher in darker, bitterer types of chocolate than in lighter coloured milk chocolate. But –that doesn’t mean it isn’t still toxic to your pet. It just means they will have to eat more of it to get sick – and that also depends on the size and weight of your dog.

• For example, a 100-pound dog may have to eat a pound of milk chocolate to get sick, but a single square of pure baker’s cocoa will have the same effect.
• As little as 2 ounces of baking chocolate can be fatal to a 20-pound dog.

Prevention is the best cure!
Remember that your pets can be very, very clever when it comes to sussing out where you’ve hidden treats and take extra care with any items containing chocolate or cocoa components. Even small amounts can make them sick. Cats may not get into your treats as often as dogs do, but the same compounds – caffeine and theobromine – are also toxic to cats.

Despite our best efforts, accidents can happen. The symptoms will appear within 4 to 24 hours after they have eaten chocolate. Be suspicious if there is a lot of chocolate in the house and your pet is experiencing these symptoms:

• Vomiting (may involve blood)
• Diarrhea
• High temperature
• Rigid muscles, lack of coordination
• Restlessness
• Rapid breathing
• Increased heart rate
• Seizures

In cases of advanced poisoning, cardiac failure and coma can result.

What Can I Do?
If you suspect that your pet has gotten into some chocolate, the best advice is to call us and get your pet to our clinic for treatment right away. Time is of the essence so acting immediately is important.

If it is a time where you can’t get hold of our clinic, there are resources to help you including the Pet Poison Helpline at – with a toll free number at 1-855-764-7661 available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

In the meantime, you can help by trying to keep your pet quiet and cool. We may recommend that you try to induce vomiting to prevent the toxic compounds from spreading throughout the body.

What Contains Chocolate?
Remember that the problematic components caffeine and theobromines are present in a number of different food items you may have around the house other than chocolate candy, including:

• Chocolate ice cream
• Chocolate & chocolate chip cookies
• Brownies
• Chocolate donuts
• Fudge sundae topping
• Chocolate syrup
• Chocolate pudding (and the powders they are made from)
• Dry cocoa powder
• Baking chocolate
• Even white chocolate does contain some theobromine

After care: After your pet has been treated, it is best to feed them a fairly bland diet for at least a few days to allow their system to return to normal.

Dr. Gary Arzem, Newmarket Pet Vet

About Dr. Arzem and The North Yonge Veterinary Hospital:
Dr. Gary Arzem received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from The Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Ontario in 1989. He is the founder and head veterinarian at The North Yonge Veterinary Hospital in Newmarket, Ontario. Having practiced veterinary medicine for more than 25 years, his skills and special interests include surgery, dentistry, diagnostic imaging (ultrasound and radiography), dermatology, internal medicine, cardiology, ophthalmology and public health as it relates to pets and their owners. He is a founding member of The Veterinary Emergency Clinic of York Region in Newmarket. Dr. Arzem is recognized as an educational leader in the community and is involved with The Ontario Veterinary College, York Region District School Board, Simcoe County Board of Education, and Seneca College’s Co-Operative Education Programs. Dr. Arzem also participates in several continuing education conferences, including The North American and Western Veterinary Conferences and he is actively involved in fundraising for a number of charitable organizations, such as The Pet Trust Fund, The Farley Foundation, The Hospital for Sick Children and the Canadian Cancer Society. He has also appeared on City T.V.’s Animal House Calls and Rogers Your Pet Your Vet television shows and has written several articles for Newmarket’s Snapd Newspapers.

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