Chocolate poisoning in cats

It is common knowledge that dogs should not eat chocolate, but it is also wise to keep this sweet treat away from cats. The delicacy contains a substance called 'theobromine'. The substance is dangerous and toxic to cats, while we humans don't experience any problems at all. An advantage is that most cats are not interested in chocolate at all. So chocolate poisoning in cats is quite rare. If your cat does come into contact with chocolate, don't hesitate to call your vet.

Help, my cat ate chocolate!

If you think your cat has ingested chocolate, it is wise to contact your vet. The cat will not always show symptoms. You can only see the first symptoms when a cat has eaten a certain amount. How much chocolate is involved then depends on the weight of the cat. However, the type of chocolate can also play an important role. Dark and/or bitter chocolate is much more dangerous than light chocolate. This is because dark chocolate contains more of the dangerous substance.

When is chocolate lethal for cats?

A cat will only appear when it has ingested a certain amount of the substance theobromine. This is usually about 10 milligrams per kilo of body weight. The symptoms get worse when a cost has been ingested three times that amount. At 100 to 200 milligrams per kilo of body weight, it can be fatal. However, these figures are not fixed and can still vary from one cat to another. One cat can take a lot more, it is also about the sensitivity of the animal for such substances. In case of doubt, it is advisable to contact your vet.

Please note, cocoa powder and cocoa shells are more dangerous than the chocolate we buy in the shops. There is a lot of theobromine in these products. Cocoa shells are sometimes used in manure, for example in the bags available at the garden centre. A cat can therefore get symptoms of chocolate poisoning without having been in contact with the chocolate in the kitchen cupboard.

What are the symptoms of chocolate poisoning?

Chocolate can cause annoying and persistent symptoms in cats. These are the following symptoms:

- Vomiting
- Diarrhoea
- Higher body temperature
- Stiff muscles
- Restless behaviour
- Hyperactivity
- More frequent urination
- Faster breathing
- Faster and lower heart rate
- Cardiac arrhythmias

The worst symptoms occur with an extremely high amount of theobromine:

- lower blood pressure
- Faintness
- Coma
- Cardiac arrest

The symptoms usually appear after about two to four hours. In the initial phase, there will be diarrhoea and vomiting. Remarkably, the worst symptoms only appear after at least 12 hours, but it can also take a day and a half. Life-threatening symptoms are very rare, as an extremely high intake of chocolate would have to have occurred.

What is the treatment like?

The substance theobromine still has no antidote, so the cause cannot be tackled directly by the vet. It is only possible to treat the symptoms. Cats that have eaten large amounts of chocolate are normally treated prior to the symptoms. However, it is a treatment that is rarely used, as almost all cats have no interest in chocolate.

Dogs and chocolate poisoning

Chocolate poisoning is much more common among dogs. Poisoning causes problems in dogs and can be fatal. It is therefore wise to immediately call the family doctor or an emergency clinic nearby. The problem will have to be dealt with immediately.

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