You may have heard about how detrimental it can be to pet health if a dog gets their paws on some chocolate, but what if your cat ate chocolate?
According to Pawp veterinarian Dr. Jenna Olsen, “While cats are less likely to eat chocolate than dogs, it still does happen.”
It’s essential that you take steps to ensure that chocolate is not accessible to your cat, as this can be toxic to them. That being said, accidents sometimes happen. When this does occur, it’s important that you take immediate action.
Learn more about how much chocolate can be harmful to cats and what you should do if your cat eats chocolate.
Unfortunately, your pet does not have to eat a massive quantity of chocolate to experience adverse effects.
This means that you should work diligently to ensure that your cat is unable to get their paws on any amount. Even a small amount of chocolate can cause severe problems.
The reason that chocolate is not safe for pets is that it contains two key dangerous ingredients: theobromine and caffeine. Theobromine and caffeine are two chemicals that are referred to as methylated xanthine alkaloids. They can be extremely detrimental to a pet since these chemicals will stimulate their sympathetic nervous system.
This ultimately results in cats’ bodies releasing epinephrine or adrenaline. When your pet has a toxic dose of methylxanthines, it can result in an overstimulation of their sympathetic nervous system.
This could cause your cat to breathe more quickly, experience a drastic boost in heart rate and blood pressure, or become overheated or restless. In severe cases, this can result in an abnormal heartbeat.
The reality is that it’s impossible to say how toxic the chocolate your pet ate was unless you know what type it was and how much they consumed. The type of chocolate has a sizable impact, as the concentration of methylxanthines is different depending on the type—for example, dark chocolate is more toxic than milk chocolate. The amount of chocolate matters, too.
If you know that your cat ate chocolate, there are several steps that you need to take.
The first thing that you should keep in mind is that it's essential that you do not panic. Panicking can make a bad situation worse, and you’ll be able to think more clearly to take the right next steps if you have a calmer mindset.
Here is what you need to know about what you should do if your cat ate chocolate:
First, you should take steps to make sure that they do not consume more chocolate. Perhaps you had chocolate lying around the house, or it was accidentally dropped.
Make sure there is no more that is accessible to your cat or other pets that live in your home. If you have children, be sure to be clear with them that chocolate or candy is severely harmful to animals. If younger family members have any candy, show them how to keep it in a place that your family pet cannot access.
Next, you should figure out how much chocolate your cat ate, as well as when they ate it. The timing, amount of chocolate, and type of chocolate is everything when it comes to your pet’s prognosis. If you are able to give the vet this information, they will be able to treat your pet with more accuracy, which could result in better outcomes.
If you are unsure how much chocolate and what type your cat ate, you should look around for wrappers. There is a chance you can glean some evidence by smelling your cat and seeing if you can decipher which type of chocolate was consumed.
Once you make sure your cat hasn’t consumed more chocolate and you figure out how much they ate and what type of chocolate, it’s time to call your vet. Ideally, you will do this as soon as possible.
Getting your pet timely medical care is extremely important in this instance.
Dr. Olsen notes that you should act quickly and speak with a trusted veterinarian if you are concerned about your cat’s health after eating chocolate. They may induce vomiting or recommend a different course of treatment.
“You can try using a telehealth service like Pawp and see if they recommend bringing your cat in for vomit induction. Inducing vomiting has the best chance of success if occurring within 60-90 minutes of a toxin ingestion, so if you are worried, don’t delay,” Dr. Olsen advises.
“Do not attempt to induce vomiting at home, as over-the-counter options like hydrogen peroxide can cause severe GI ulceration if given at too high of a dose, and/or aspiration pneumonia if administered inappropriately.”
If your cat ate chocolate longer than 60 to 90 minutes ago, then other steps might be taken to remove the chocolate from your pet’s body.
In addition, if you are concerned that your pet consumed chocolate with another toxin (such as macadamia nuts covered in chocolate), it’s important that you tell this to your vet. It's likely that they will treat it as the worst-case scenario to give your pet the best chance of making a complete recovery.
According to Dr. Olsen, how long it will take to see symptoms that your cat ate chocolate will vary.
“Clinical signs and their onset can vary based on the volume ingested and the type (milk, dark, cocoa powder, etc.), but are typically noted 6-12 hours post-ingestion.”
Dr. Olsen clarifies to exercise caution as GI upset can occur sooner in some pets, but cardiac and neurologic changes can take longer to see. If you are unsure, calling the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Hotline is always a good idea.
Because chocolate can be severely dangerous to cats, it’s impossible to say if your cat will make a full recovery without knowing the individual situation. However, there are several things that can increase the odds that your pet will be able to make it out of this situation okay.
For one, if your pet did not consume a large amount of chocolate in relation to their body weight, they might be okay. If you get them to the vet to get treated in a timely manner and the vet deems their treatments successful, then they will likely make a full recovery.
Ultimately, your best bet is to contact a vet as soon as possible and try to give the vet an honest, clear answer about how much chocolate they ate, what type of chocolate, and when they ate it.
Pawp is passionate about giving you the resources that you need to give your pet the best life possible.
Our vets are available via telehealth 24/7, and there is never a wait time or an appointment necessary. So, no matter if you need assistance in an emergency or have a general pet-care question, we're here to help.