Holiday 2023

Why is chocolate so bad for dogs and cats?

Keep the holidays sweet by keeping toxic treats away from your pets

Chocolate is everywhere during the holiday season, from steaming mugs of marshmallow-topped hot chocolate to baked goods to all manner of candy delights.

But where should chocolate never be? Anywhere your pet can find it!

Chocolate is highly toxic to both dogs and cats—and, unfortunately, they don’t know better. During the holidays, emergencies related to chocolate ingestion in pets tend to spike. In fact, 20% of all the claims received by Nationwide® for chocolate toxicity are submitted in December, with claim numbers doubling in the last two weeks alone. Here’s what you need to know.

Why is chocolate bad for dogs and cats?

Two things make chocolate so dangerous to pets: Theobromine and caffeine. Both are fine for humans, but dogs and cats lack a way to efficiently break down the compounds in their bodies. As a result, chocolate ingestion commonly leads to heart, kidney and nervous system issues, along with mild to severe gastric distress.

The darker the chocolate, the higher the concentration of theobromine and caffeine—and the more toxic it is for companion animals. Also, the smaller the pet, the higher the danger: A Labrador retriever who eats some milk chocolate morsels may experience moderate symptoms but otherwise be fine, whereas a Chihuahua could be a few nibbles of unsweetened Baker’s chocolate away from facing a life-threatening emergency. Of course, the best way to avoid a potentially dangerous ingestion is to keep all chocolate out of paw’s reach for pets.

What to do if your pet ingests chocolate

If you know or suspect that your pet has consumed chocolate, don’t hesitate to get help right away. Note exactly what type of chocolate was consumed and how much, then call your veterinarian or after-hours clinic for guidance. You can also connect with a licensed veterinary expert via video chat anytime using the VetHelpline app, which is available at no added charge to all Nationwide pet insurance members.

A veterinary healthcare team member can assess severity and provide guidance as to whether your pet needs to be seen for immediate treatment. Because the ingredients in chocolate stay in the body for days, it may take some time before your pet is back to normal.

Chocolate isn’t the only holiday hazard

No matter the holiday, introducing new decorations or human foods to our pets’ environments can lead to dangerous situations.

Look at your home from your pet’s perspective and pet-proof accordingly. What is at their eye level? What could be knocked over by a leaping cat or an enthusiastically wagging tail? Watch out for potential hazards, including exposed wires or cords, low-hanging ornaments, candles, candy dishes and more. If necessary, block off areas that might prove too tempting, and crate pets who get into mischief when you leave the house.

Finally, make sure everyone in the home knows to keep dangerous items, medicines or foods away from pets.

There are few things more upsetting than heading to the emergency room during a season that’s meant to be filled with joy. By taking a few precautions, you’ll be increasing the odds of a happy, safe holiday season for you and your pets.

Add-a-pet

Take advantage of your multi-pet discount when you add a pet to your policy. When covering two or three pets, you can receive a 5% discount. When covering four or more pets, you'll save 10% on your base premium. Visit the member portal to add a pet. 

Enroll a new pet
Add-a-pet

Take advantage of your multi-pet discount when you add a pet to your policy. When covering two or three pets, you can receive a 5% discount. When covering four or more pets, you'll save 10% on your base premium. Visit the member portal to add a pet. 

Enroll a new pet
Add-a-pet

Take advantage of your multi-pet discount when you add a pet to your policy. When covering two or three pets, you can receive a 5% discount. When covering four or more pets, you'll save 10% on your base premium. Visit the member portal to add a pet. 

Enroll a new pet
Add-a-pet

Take advantage of your multi-pet discount when you add a pet to your policy. When covering two or three pets, you can receive a 5% discount. When covering four or more pets, you'll save 10% on your base premium. Visit the member portal to add a pet. 

Enroll a new pet
Add-a-pet

Take advantage of your multi-pet discount when you add a pet to your policy. When covering two or three pets, you can receive a 5% discount. When covering four or more pets, you'll save 10% on your base premium. Visit the member portal to add a pet. 

Enroll a new pet
Add-a-pet

Take advantage of your multi-pet discount when you add a pet to your policy. When covering two or three pets, you can receive a 5% discount. When covering four or more pets, you'll save 10% on your base premium. Visit the member portal to add a pet. 

Enroll a new pet
Add-a-pet

Take advantage of your multi-pet discount when you add a pet to your policy. When covering two or three pets, you can receive a 5% discount. When covering four or more pets, you'll save 10% on your base premium. Visit the member portal to add a pet. 

Enroll a new pet
Add-a-pet

Take advantage of your multi-pet discount when you add a pet to your policy. When covering two or three pets, you can receive a 5% discount. When covering four or more pets, you'll save 10% on your base premium. Visit the member portal to add a pet. 

Enroll a new pet

Check out some of our other posts!

Why you should consider cruise travel insurance

Despite best efforts to plan the perfect cruise, unexpected incidents can turn vacation ...

Meet Petco CEO Ron Coughlin and his pup, Yogi

Loving pets is part of the job at Petco. For Ron Coughlin, being the top dog means ...

Top 10 Black-owned pet brands

When it comes to eats, treats and stylish looks, your pets get only the best. However, ...

Bigger! Fluffier! Now with felines!

By now, we hope you’ve had a chance to visit the Nationwide® Pet HealthZone®, a free ...