Chocolate contains theobromine which has a stimulating effect on the nervous system. Cats are much more sensitive to theobromine than humans are because they break down theobromine more slowly.
Cats are slightly more sensitive to chocolate (theobromine) than dogs are, however, it is less common for them to become chocolate poisoned because they generally do not eat chocolate. Other animal species are also sensitive to chocolate, especially horses, but also mice and parrots and others. Humans have a fast metabolism of theobromine, which makes us less susceptible to poisoning. In cats, the half-life of theobromine in the body is considerably longer than in humans, which means that the substance accumulates in the body and affects various organ systems, first the central nervous system and later also the circulation, respiration and urinary organs.
The lethal dose for cats is about 80-200 mg / kg body weight, but poisoning symptoms occur at much lower doses. In dark chocolate and in pure cocoa, the content of theobromine is highest, about 5-15 mg / g and sometimes up to 28 mg / g (ie 2,800 mg in a 100 gram chocolate cake). Milk chocolate contains relatively little theobromine, about 2mg / g and white chocolate contains almost no theobromine.
Symptoms occur between 2 and 24 hours after ingestion and can persist for several days. Even a small but often repeated chocolate intake is dangerous because theobromine then accumulates in the body as it goes on.
A cat with chocolate poisoning develops symptoms such as increased thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, rapid heart rate with arrhythmias, rapid breathing, hyperactivity and restlessness, and seizures.
If the pet owner suspects that the cat has eaten chocolate, for example in the form of blank wrapping paper, a probability diagnosis can be made based on the symptoms and the pet owner’s information. Otherwise, it can be difficult to make the correct diagnosis, as gastrointestinal disorders, palpitations and neurological symptoms can have many different causes in cats.
NOTE – We do not recommend that you try to induce vomiting with salt at home as this can lead to salt poisoning in the cat.
There is no antidote to theobromine but the treatment is symptomatic and supportive.
For the first 1-3 hours after ingestion, you may try to make the cat vomit with the help of an injection. To prevent theobromine that has already passed into the intestine from being absorbed, activated carbon can be given.
In case of seizures, muscle relaxants and antispasmodics may be given and in case of cardiac arrest, specific cardiac medication may be required to treat arrhythmia and palpitations. Problems such as vomiting require medication that protects the stomach and intestines.
If the cat survives the acute poisoning, it is usually completely recovered.