If you have goats, you have probably felt the temptation to give them a little taste of the foods you enjoy. But, there is just one issue: goats are strictly herbivores, and eat only plant matter once they reach maturity.
But wait! Chocolate is technically made from plants. It is made from cocoa, and cocoa comes from plants. Hence, goats might be able to have chocolate. Sounds foolproof! So, can goats eat chocolate?
No, goats cannot eat chocolate. Chocolate can be highly toxic to goats. The theobromine and caffeine in chocolate are both poisonous to them, and can cause serious health problems like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and seizure. Death is a possible outcome in severe cases.
It is best to keep chocolate and anything containing cocoa away from your goats.
If you’re looking for treats to give your goat, there are plenty you can give them, but chocolate is not one of them. Keep reading to learn all of the facts why chocolate is a no-go for goats.
Chocolate and Cocoa Contain Theobromine and Caffeine
The main compounds in chocolate that are dangerous to goats are theobromine and caffeine. These stimulants are part of the reason why chocolate is so pleasurable for humans to eat.
In humans, they activate receptors in the brain, causing a feeling of euphoria. But, for goats, these same compounds can cause serious health problems. More on just what those problems are in a moment.
Theobromine and caffeine are also both diuretics, meaning they increase urination. This can lead to dehydration, which is especially dangerous for goats since they are already susceptible to it.
Theobromine and caffeine can also cause an irregular heartbeat, tremors and seizures in most mammals. In large enough quantities, they can be fatal.
Theobromine is Toxic for Many Mammals, Including Goats
Theobromine is a bitter alkaloid of the cacao plant, found primarily in cocoa and chocolate. It is also a potent stimulant, which is why it’s sometimes used as a psychoactive drug.
While theobromine is generally safe for humans to consume, it is poisonous for many other mammals since their livers cannot cope with it very well.
In large doses, however, theobromine can be acutely toxic to mammals. In severe cases, it can lead to seizures and death.
The problem is that theobromine is often found in things that taste good, things animals, including goats, will eat.
This can easily result in severe poisoning before animals understand the danger or owners can react
Symptoms of Theobromine Poisoning
The symptoms of theobromine poisoning include restlessness, agitation, hypertension, tachycardia, and diuresis.
In layman’s terms, that means your goat will be restless, have an increased heart rate, tremors and will urinate more frequently.
If the poisoning is severe enough, it can also cause seizures, coma and death.
What Should You Do if Your Goat Has Eaten Chocolate?
The good news is that theobromine poisoning is treatable if you catch it early enough. The first step is to remove the poisonous food immediately. Then, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Follow their instructions. If the quantity was very small, your vet will likely advise observation.
Just keep an eye on the goat and watch for any symptoms. Make sure they have plenty of fresh water to drink.
Out of an abundance of caution or when more severe poisoning is suspected your vet will want you to bring the goat in for treatment.
There, they will likely give the goat activated charcoal to help absorb the toxins and prevent them from being further absorbed into the system.
They may also give IV fluids to help flush the system and keep the goat hydrated. In some cases, they may also give medications to control seizures or heart rate.
Chocolate is poisonous to goats and can be deadly. If your goat has eaten chocolate, even in small quantities, call your vet immediately.
The sooner you get them treatment, the better the chances are for a full recovery.
Chocolate is Also Highly Caloric and Sugary
If the toxicity of chocolate wasn’t bad enough, it is also very high in sugar and calories. Chocolate is not a natural food for goats and is not something they should be eating on a regular basis, if at all.
Excess calories will make goats gain weight, and high sugar diets are just the thing to mess up their digestive system and lead to all sorts of problems like diarrhea, bloat, and colic.
Even if your goat somehow manages to avoid or survive the toxicity of chocolate, it is still not a good idea to let them eat it.
How Much Chocolate is Harmful for Goats?
The toxic dose of theobromine for an adult goat varies somewhat, but may be reached in as little as a few ounces of dark chocolate or rich cocoa.
The type of chocolate makes a difference since darker chocolate contains more theobromine.
For example, a pygmy goat could be severely poisoned by eating as little as one ounce of very dark chocolate or 3 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate.
In contrast, it might take nearly a pound of milk chocolate to reach the same toxicity levels in an adult goat.
It isn’t an exact science or ratio you can depend on, so don’t take any chances. Goats should never have any amount of chocolate, period!
Cooking Does Not Reduce Toxicity
In case you were wondering, the toxicity of theobromine in mammals is not affected in any meaningful way by heat or lengthy cooking.
Any kind of baked goods made with chocolate are still harmful.
Kids are Very Vulnerable to Theobromine Poisoning
Of particular concern, kids (baby goats) are very vulnerable to the effects of theobromine. They are small, so it doesn’t take much chocolate to reach toxic levels in their system.
They also lack the ability to metabolize the toxins as quickly as adults. As a result, they can become very ill very quickly after eating even a small amount of chocolate.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.