Pet Food Institute

Wondering how to show your pets your love on Valentine’s Day? It starts with responsible nutrition, so hold the chocolate

It’s natural to hug and try to please the ones you love, especially in the season of love, but with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, experts are urging restraint — if you truly love and care for the pets in your house, please give the hug, but hold the chocolate.

Humans, they remind us, only need to worry about the calories of the delicious, sweet delicacy. For dogs and cats, there’s a far greater concern. When eaten, chocolate can cause stomach upset, vomiting, or a racing heart rate.  The darker the type of the chocolate, the more dangerous it can be for a pet. 

Chocolate contains both caffeine and theobromine which animals cannot metabolize similar to how humans are able to. Dark chocolate, including baking chocolate, is hardest on a dog’s internal system, with milk chocolate which contains less of the toxic theobromine, posing slightly less severe reactions. The darker, more bitter the chocolate, the greater the potential danger it poses to dogs.

“What may come as the biggest surprise is how sensitive a dog’s stomach is,” says Nat Davies, senior director of business operations and programs with the Pet Food Institute (PFI), the Washington, D.C-based organization which helps to educate pet owners about pet food safety in The Bahamas, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos and Trinidad. “That’s why we also advise against other potentially toxic foods including some that humans love.” Among the other forbidden foods for cats and dogs – cooked bones, avocados, grapes, onions, garlic, raisins and brands of peanut butter containing an ingredient called xylitol.

“When it comes to chocolate, size matters,” says Davies. It only takes a single ounce of baker’s chocolate or nine ounces of milk chocolate to cause symptoms in a 50-pound dog, according to other experts. Common symptoms to watch for, should your pet accidentally ingest the treat made for humans, include vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst and panting, excessive urination, racing heart rate. Severe cases can lead to worse conditions, including muscle tremors, seizures and heart failure.

”If you are looking to show your pet some extra love on Valentine’s Day, avoid chocolate,” said Davies. “Instead, reach for a safe pet treat, take some extra time to play together or go on a walk. There are many ways to safely show our love for our pets.”