Food Fact: Can my pet eat Chocolate?
Chocolate has always been the wonder food for hoomans. Owing to the number of varieties it can be processed into, chocolate can double up from a simple sweet delicacy to a gift hamper. Dark, caramelized or white, the love for chocolate transcends across boundaries. As pet parents, you may feel that you need to share everything with your furry baby. But should you be sharing this sweet delight with your dog or cat?
The short answer is No! The long answer to this has two parts: the constituents of chocolate, and the biological capability of your pet to respond to these. Let’s try to understand this in detail.
So where do chocolates come from?
Hoomans from Mesoamerica were historically the first ones to come across chocolate. The seeds of the cacao plant, which was grown vastly in the highlands of Mexico, were used back then to make fermented beverages. Hence, in its earliest form, chocolate was essentially a beverage.
In ancient mythology, chocolate was considered to be so royal that when the God of Wisdom, Quetzacoatl decided to share the cacao seeds with hoomans, he was ostracized by all other gods. What further pushed its spread across boundaries of Mexico was its use as an aphrodisiac. As the word spread, Europe started importing the cacao seeds, and added sugar to the chocolate they produced. And that is how chocolate came into the form as we know it to be.
That’s quite interesting! What does it contain?
Modern varieties of chocolate include cacao or cocoa, milk, caffeine, sugar, trans-fats and theobromine. It also contains Vitamin A and Magnesium in small quantities.
How do these things affect my pet?
Chocolate is considered to be FATAL for dogs. This is primarily because of the presence of theobromine in it. Theobromine is a vasodilator (widens the blood vessels), a diuretic (aids in urination) and a heart stimulant. Being a vasodilator and a heart stimulant, it has the ability to dilate blood vessels, and increase the heart pace. This is why even a teeny tiny bit of chocolate can send your pet into an erratic behavior, and result in panting and seizures, which almost always develop into a cardiac arrest. Also, being a diuretic, it increases urination, and your dawgie’s body will be soon deprived of water. Dehydration will get to the better of your pet, and his blood vessels won’t be able to tolerate the pressure the heart starts to put on them.
Wait, but what if my pet accidentally ate chocolate?
If your pet accidentally eats chocolate, you MUST rush to the vet immediately, even if he doesn’t show any symptoms. The effects of theobromine can last up to 72 hours, so this will be the most critical time you’ll need to watch out for. Make sure you keep a constant vigil over every minute thing your pet does and always stay on your toes. As a precautionary measure, do not keep anything chocolate-flavored within the reach of your pet. They are naturally attracted to the sweeter things, and as a parent, this is where you MUST draw the line.
Oh no! But why can I have chocolate and my pet can’t?
This is because humans and pets are biologically different. While humans have a complex digestive system in place to counter the effects of chocolate, a dog’s or cat’s anatomy isn’t prepared for even a little fragment of chocolate. This is due to the absence of an enzyme that’s needed to digest theobromine. This enzyme helps us humans to process chocolate as a mere stimulant, like caffeine. But with pets, it results in theobromine over-stimulating their central nervous system and cardiovascular systems. It is due to this event that dogs end up panting, severely dehydrated, with abdominal pains, vomiting, seizures and cardiac arrest.
But there are so many types of chocolates available. There must be some variety of it that I can share with my pet, no?
Absolutely not! Be it white, caramelized, brown, black, dark, low sugar, low calorie, or whatever variant; the presence of theobromine in all these varieties renders chocolates fatal for your pet. And it’s not just chocolate, it’s all chocolate-flavored products that use cocoa (or another form of chocolate) come under the same purview. That being said, you shouldn’t give your pet chocolate-flavored biscuits, cakes, pies, cookies, Nutella, syrup or whatever fancy dish that has even a tinge of cocoa present in it.
So what’s the final verdict?
Chocolate is NOT safe for dogs or cats; it is fatal for them. No matter the quantity or the variety, chocolate must be kept out of your pet’s reach. And in case of a circumstance when your pet accidentally has consumed some of it, don’t wait for the symptoms to manifest, RUSH TO THE VET IMMEDIATELY!
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