While dogs make up about 95% of chocolate consumption calls to pet poison hotlines, cats occasionally get into our sweet treats, too. Chocolate toxicity can occur in cats just as it can in dogs so it is important for cat owners to keep their chocolate away from their feline friends. Knowing what can happen and what to do if a cat eats chocolate can save a life.
Why is Chocolate Toxic to Cats?
Chocolate contains ingredients called theobromine and caffeine which are toxic to cats if consumed in large enough quantities. Theobromine absorbs much more slowly in cats than it does in humans so even a small amount of chocolate can be toxic to a small cat. Caffeine is similar to theobromine chemically and stimulates a cat much more than a human since cats are much more sensitive to it.
Symptoms of Chocolate Toxicity in a Cat
Chocolate toxicity in cats can cause a variety of symptoms including death if a cat is not treated promptly. Since each cat may have different sensitivity levels to theobromine and caffiene, if your cat has eaten chocolate you should contact your veterinarian immediately even if you don't think it was very much.
Symptoms of Chocolate Toxicity in a Cat
- Increased thirst
- Increased reflex responses
- Muscle rigidity
- Rapid breathing
Since cats are more sensitive to the components of chocolate than we are are, obvious symptoms will be seen if a cat eats even a small amount of it. Initially, vomiting and diarrhea may result along with hyperactivity but if not treated, increased thirst, restlessness, tremors, and other signs of sensitivity will be noted. With consumption of large amounts of chocolate and if treatment is not received, a cat may have seizures, stiffness, rapid breathing, and even die.
Chocolate Toxicity Levels in Cats
|Chocolate Toxicity in Cats|
|Type of Chocolate||Minimum Amount That Can Be Toxic to an 8 lb. Cat|
|White||Not a concern|
The toxic dose of theobromine in cats is 200 mg/kg but different types of chocolate have different amounts of theobromine in it. As the chart above shows, baking, semi-sweet, and dark chocolate pose a greater risk to a cat than milk chocolate. White chocolate is not a concern for theobromine and caffeine toxicity at all because it doesn't contain cocoa solids like other types of chocolate. White chocolate has extremely low levels of the chemicals needed to produce toxic effects in a cat.
Baking chocolate usually comes in large bars or chunks of 4 oz and is not sweet so it is only used for making confections. Only a small 0.2 oz needs to be bitten off of a bar of baking chocolate for it to be dangerous to a cat. Slightly more needs to be eaten if it is semisweet or dark chocolate but it still only takes 0.5 oz for a cat to reach a toxic amount of these types of chocolates. Milk chocolate has far less theobromine and caffeine in it than the more dangerous chocolate varieties so a cat has to eat just over 1.1 oz to reach a toxic level. This amount equates to about 8 Hershey Kiss milk chocolates.
Treatment of Chocolate Toxicity in Cats
If your cat is at risk for chocolate toxicity then your veterinarian may induce vomiting or recommend you do so at home before bringing it in for an examination. One or two teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide often makes a cat vomit up the contents of its stomach so if your cat recently ate some chocolate this can rid its body of it and any wrappers that may have also been consumed. Getting a cat to drink hydrogen peroxide can be difficult though, especially if you don't have a syringe at home, so it is often recommended to bring your cat into the animal hospital as soon as possible.
Once at your veterinarian's office, your cat may need fluid therapy to stay hydrated and blood or urine tests performed. An ECG may also be performed to look for abnormal rhythms of the heart. Symptoms will be treated as needed and a bland diet is typically recommended for the next few days after your cat eats chocolate. If treatment is not received promptly after the ingestion of chocolate then it is possible that death can result if enough theobromine was consumed.