You're probably already aware that chocolate isn't a healthy food to give your pets, but did you know it's poisonous to cats? Ingesting even a small amount of the chemical compound theobromine, which is found in chocolate, can damage your cat's nervous system, cause their heart to fail or cost them their life. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment for this type of poisoning:
Common symptoms of chocolate poisoning to look out for include the following:
- Gastric upset
- Abdominal tenderness
- Frequent urination
- Muscle rigidity
- Panting or quick, shallow breaths
Your vet will use the following tests to diagnose chocolate poisoning:
Blood Sample - If your cat has ingested theobromine, their blood will contain toxic alkaloids.
Urine Sample - Analysing your cat's urine can enable the vet to determine if their kidneys have been damaged, which occurs when the kidneys struggle to process the poison. Dehydration can also be detected, and this is common when gastric upset lasts more than a couple of hours. If dehydration is not treated, your cat's organ health can suffer.
Echocardiogram - This diagnostic imaging procedure allows the vet to check the condition of your cat's heart and identify abnormalities.
Once chocolate poisoning has been diagnosed, your vet will recommend a course of action. Their recommendation is usually dependent on how much time has passed since your cat ingested chocolate. The following two treatment options are commonly recommended:
Induced Vomiting - Your vet will administer emetic drugs, either orally or intravenously, to your cat in an attempt to purge the theobromine from their body before it reaches their bloodstream. This treatment is usually administered alongside intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration occurring as a result of the emetic drugs.
Activated Charcoal - Activated charcoal is a powerful treatment that binds to toxins and allows them to be excreted as a waste product. It's effective in the gastrointestinal tract, and once it binds to theobromine, it will pass out of your cat's body when they empty their bowels. It can be administered as a liquid or tablet, and it's given under the supervision of veterinary medical staff.
You may not think your cat isn't interested in chocolate, but you should never take the risk and leave chocolate in an accessible place. If you think your cat may have eaten even a small amount of chocolate, have them seen by your veterinarian immediately.