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Source: Susan Nelson, 785-532-5690,
News release prepared by: Rosie Hoefling, 785-532-2535,

Monday, Oct. 4, 2010


MANHATTAN -- Eating a bag full of chocolate Halloween candy is more of a trick than a treat for the average household pet, according to a Kansas State University veterinarian.

K-State's Susan Nelson, assistant professor of clinical services, says chocolate consumption by many pets, including dogs, cats, ferrets, birds and rats, can be extremely hazardous.

"Chocolate contains large amounts of methylxanthines," she said. "Theobromine and caffeine are methylxanthines that are found in chocolate. It is theobromine that causes the majority of symptoms in pets."

When a pet ingests a small quantity of chocolate, an owner may notice no changes, or they could see such symptoms as vomiting, diarrhea and excessive thirst and urination. As the consumption of chocolate increases, Nelson said the symptoms become more severe and could lead to irregular heartbeats, tremors, seizures and possibly death.

"Symptoms typically occur within 12 hours of ingestion," she said. "Unlike people, dogs take much longer to clear theobromine from their bodies, which leads to the formation of toxic levels."

According to Nelson, different types of chocolate can vary in the concentration level of theobromine. Baking chocolate contains the most theobromine, white chocolate contains the least, and semisweet and milk chocolate contain a medium amount.

If a household pet consumes a large quantity of chocolate Nelson advises owners to call a veterinarian or emergency clinic immediately. Inducing vomiting will most likely be advised, but she said this measure is not safe in all situations.

She also recommends keeping all foods -- especially Halloween candy -- out of a pet's reach to avoid hazardous consumption situations. Confining pets during parties or family gatherings also will help prevent guests from feeding them toxic foods, she said.

"Chocolate consumption is a very common problem amongst pets, dogs especially," Nelson said. "It is important to recognize that individual reactions vary by pets, but it is best to assume your pet is one of the sensitive ones and not delay in seeking advice from your veterinarian. Be aware of the chocolate sources in your house, and tell any new dog owner about this potential threat to their pet."