Can rabbits eat chocolate?
As harmless as chocolate may seem, very few people really understand how unnatural it is for certain pets to eat it.
Have you been feeding your pet rabbit chocolate? If you have, you need to stop immediately.
It is not safe for rabbits to consume chocolate. Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine. Even in low amounts, these ingredients can stimulate an unhealthy addiction that so contributes to overheating, increased heart rate, and heavy breathing for rabbits.
These ingredients are literally harmless to humans but can make your rabbit very sick.
I think it’s important that we dive into exactly what happens when your rabbit eats chocolate and why you should avoid it at all costs.
What does chocolate do to rabbits?
As you can tell by now, chocolate is actually considered a poison to rabbits.
The two harmful ingredients, caffeine and theobromine are in the class of the methylxanthine family of chemicals.
According to an article in the National Library of Medicine, the pharmacological effects of methylxanthines include stimulating the nervous system, causing erratic behavior in the cardiovascular and metabolic systems, and increased activity in the stomach.
In amounts as small as a bar of chocolate, this is virtually harmless to humans. But because rabbits are so small, this can make a world of difference to them.
There have been numerous studies showing that even just a small amount of caffeine can significantly raise the heart rate of a rabbit. In one particular study, it was found that even a small amount of caffeine was able to push a rabbit’s heart to contract beyond its normal limits. Rabbit heart rates usually fall between 150 (for complete rest) and 300 beats per minute (when it is in danger). It was discovered that a small amount of caffeine could push their heart rates up to 310 beats per minute.
Because of how potent theobromine and caffeine are to a rabbit’s heart rate there is a slight chance that it can also cause arrhythmias.
Heart rates that are increased too high can also add on multiple effects such as increased calcium levels in the heart which lead to skeletal muscle conditions like seizures.
It’s also worse is when a rabbit consumes chocolate with ingredients like caffeine and theobromine, it actually takes the rabbit a much longer time to digest these chemicals. As a result, these active ingredients will build up inside your rabbit’s bloodstream to toxic levels giving way to multi-organ failure and disease.
How much chocolate will actually cause danger to rabbits?
As explained before, rabbits are very small creatures.
Compared to adult humans, if a rabbit consumed a small bar of chocolate, it would be the equivalent of a human adult consuming several tens of bars of chocolate.
But the question is, how much chocolate does it actually take to put your rabbit’s life in danger?
This ultimately depends on the weight of the rabbit. Rabbits come in all different sizes.
It was discovered that as little as 1 oz (30 grams) of chocolate can be fatal to a rabbit that weighs less than 5 lbs. Trust me, a rabbit can go through a small bar of chocolate rather quickly if you turn your head away from one.
Also, not all chocolates are equal. Some chocolates are made differently.
Take dark chocolate for example. Dark chocolate can contain up to three or four times as much caffeine and theobromine compared to the lighter milk chocolate versions.
How do veterinarians treat rabbits who consume too much chocolate?
If your pet were simply a dog or cat that ingested too much chocolate, then a veterinarian would typically just try to induce vomiting. This would easily remove everything that your pet had eaten in the last 8 to 10 hours.
However, in the case of rabbits, it is nearly impossible for rabbits to vomit.
Rabbits are physiologically not capable of vomiting due to their digested tract not permitting such a function. Rabbits are built with a specifically thick and strong sphincter that only lets things into the stomach and shuts off immediately blocking anything from coming back out to the mouth.
Fortunately, veterinarians do have an arsenal of tools they can use to help save your rabbit. They can try using a stomach tube to remove or even dilute the remaining chocolate that’s still in your rabbit’s stomach.
Also if your rabbit has not fallen into any signs or symptoms after eating a small amount of chocolate, then it might be okay to just monitor your rabbit for the time being. Using a tube and forcing it down a rabbit’s throat can be extremely stressful for your rabbit. Most veterinarians would try to avoid that if possible.
When all is said and done, a basic blood test might even help determine your rabbit’s sugar conditions as well.
What should you do if you can’t find a veterinarian?
If your rabbit has consumed an unknown amount of chocolate, and you can’t reach your veterinarian at this time, I recommend that you keep a close eye on your rabbit.
Monitor its behavior and its interaction with you and anything it does.
Start by giving your rabbit plenty of water. Keep it hydrated. Hydrating your rabbit will help get the chocolate past through its digestive system much quicker. Can take a rabbit anywhere between 5 to 20 hours for food to pass through its digestive tract and out of its body. Since chocolate is mostly considered not digestible in rabbits it may take the longer half of 10 to 20 hours to leave your rabbit’s system.
It may also take anywhere between 6 to 12 hours after your rabbit has eaten chocolate to show any signs and symptoms.
You need to look out for certain types of symptoms such as:
- Increased breathing
- Increased heart rate
The goal here is to make sure your rabbit either urinates or poops out the chocolate as soon as possible since it can’t simply vomit it out. Provide your rabbit with plenty of water and keep an eye on it.
You going to need to do everything you can to try to flush out these harmful chemicals from its system.
How much chocolate will actually kill a rabbit?
Understanding how much chocolate will be dangerous to your rabbit is crucial to understanding what steps to take when moving forward.
Typically speaking, the general consensus is that a 1oz (30 gram) piece of chocolate can kill a 5-pound rabbit.
I’ve created a chart to understand whether your rabbit is in danger or not. This isn’t an exact science but it does give you a gauge on how to react in case the situation comes up.
|Rabbit weight (lbs)||Chocolate fatal limit|
|1||0.2 oz (6 grams)|
|2||0.4 oz (12 grams)|
|3||0.6 oz (18 grams)|
|4||0.8 oz (24 grams)|
|5||1 oz (30 grams)|
|6||1.2 oz (36 grams)|
|7||1.4 oz (42 grams)|
|8||1.6 oz (48 grams)|
|9||1.8 oz (54 grams)|
|10||2.0 oz (60 grams)|
|11||2.2 oz (66 grams)|
|12||2.4 oz (72 grams)|
|13||2.6 oz (78 grams)|
|14||2.8 oz (84 grams)|
|15||3.0 oz (90 grams)|
CAUTION: This chart is by no means an approved guide on whether or not you should seek medical attention for your rabbit if it has consumed chocolate. I recommend that no matter how much chocolate your rabbit consumes, you should seek the advice of a trained medical professional. Every rabbit’s situation is different and the varieties of chocolates that exist also contain a different amount of ingredients that are harmful to your rabbit. For example, the difference between 1 oz of dark chocolate vs 1 oz of milk chocolate.
The bottom line
Chocolate has a lot of different components including sugar, fat, milk solids, cocoa butter, emulsifiers, lecithins, artificial flavors, preservatives, etc. These chemicals work together to create a chemical reaction within your bunny’s body which causes them to become addicted to eating more and more chocolate.
This creates the domino effect as it continues to stack harmful each other. Eventually, your rabbit will be unable to function normally or even survive due to their inability to regulate themselves.
When they try to eliminate any excess chocolate by pooping out, they end up having diarrhea instead. They also begin to experience weight loss, lethargy, lack of appetite, excessive thirst, and a rapid heartbeat.
Please avoid giving your rabbit chocolate at all costs. It’s just not worth it!
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