Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to show your loved ones how much you care! Oftentimes, this is done with sweet treats like gourmet chocolates. Indulging in some goodies is part of the fun, but it’s important to make sure pets don’t get ahold of anything containing chocolate or xylitol.
The most dangerous types of chocolate are baker’s chocolate and cocoa powder. The main toxic agent in chocolate is theobromine, which is a substance similar in many ways to caffeine. Theobromine is a stimulant and a member of a class of drugs called methylxanthines. Theobromine can cause pets to experience vomiting and diarrhea. More serious effects include stimulatory heart effects and seizures. Death can occur if enough chocolate is consumed.
White chocolate does not contain theobromine, but it does have a high fat content, which can lead to pancreatitis in pets.
Pets that have consumed chocolate tend to show signs of toxicity within six to twelve hours of ingestion. Tremors and hyperactivity may be the first clue. At that point, it may be too late for inducing vomiting. A veterinarian may use activated charcoal to help bind the toxins and fluid therapy to flush out a pet’s system. Monitoring of heart rate and rhythm is important for animals suffering from theobromine toxicity.
Dog owners should also watch out for treats containing xylitol, which can cause rapid lowering of blood sugar, followed by serious liver damage. Symptoms associated with xylitol poisoning include weakness, collapse, vomiting and black tarry stools. Seizures and death may occur. A dog that has ingested xylitol needs to be seen by a veterinarian right away. Luckily, cats do not seem to be susceptible to the dangerous effects of xylitol.
Keep your pet safe and happy this Valentine’s Day by sticking to healthy pet treats and keeping human goodies out of reach!