Pretty much everyone knows that chocolate is bad for dogs, but does that apply to other animals? Maybe you have noticed a squirrel eat a piece of this food off the ground before. If you want to know “can squirrels eat chocolate”, the answer might surprise you. These animals will eat almost anything they are given, but that doesn’t mean it is good for them.
Can Squirrels Eat Chocolate?
Chocolate is not safe for squirrels to eat due to a chemical called “Theobromine”. This chemical isn’t usually fatal to these animals in small doses, but it does have the potential to kill if these animals consume enough of it.
It takes about half a milligram of theobromine to kill a squirrel that weighs a little over one pound. Theobromine can be naturally found in many different plants as well as guarana berries and coffee beans.
Some of the symptoms of theobromine toxicity in squirrels and other animals include:
- Hyperactive behavior
- Rapid heart rate
- Muscle tremors
Do Squirrels Like Eating Chocolate?
There is no doubt whatsoever that squirrels love the taste of chocolate. This is because most chocolate is very sweet due to the high amount of sugar in it. These animals might prefer certain types of chocolate over others though. Dark chocolate has a fairly bitter taste compared to other kinds, so a squirrel could be less likely to eat it.
What does a Squirrel’s Natural Diet Consist of?
Squirrels eat a variety of foods in the wild, as they are scavengers. Most of these animals are considered herbivores, though they do sometimes eat other animals. While nuts and seeds make up a big part of their diet, they will eat many different things.
Some of the most common foods a squirrel will eat in its natural environment include:
- Sunflower seeds
- Various fruits
- Bird eggs
There are quite a few different nutrients that a squirrel needs to stay healthy and survive. Some of these nutrients include protein, calcium, fat, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. In fact, they need a lot of the same things that humans do to thrive.
These animals serve a very important purpose in our ecosystem. They store much of the food they collect in the soil, resulting in the propagation of plants.
Health Benefits of Chocolate
Despite the fact that chocolate can pose a major threat to a squirrel’s health, it does offer a number of health benefits. Many people view chocolate as junk food with no redeeming nutritional value, but this isn’t entirely true.
Dark chocolate in particular has strong antioxidant properties that can help reduce the risk of many harmful diseases. Antioxidants can be very beneficial to human beings as well as squirrels. While it’s not clear how much a squirrel would benefit from chocolate in this way, it is interesting to consider.
You will find that chocolate often contains a variety of essential minerals, including zinc, iron, copper, potassium, selenium, and magnesium. Squirrels need these minerals just like humans in order to stay healthy.
Spike in Energy Levels
If you were to feed a squirrel even a little bit of chocolate, you’d probably notice it bouncing around afterwards. This is partially due to the fact that this food helps blood flow freely throughout the body.
This can lead to a burst of energy that is also commonly seen in human children. Despite popular belief, sugar doesn’t cost people or other animals to become hyperactive.
Believe it or not, a little bit of chocolate once in a while can be good for your heart. Eating dark chocolate sometimes can keep white blood cells from clinging to the walls of blood vessels.
As a result, the arteries become less rigid and healthier overall. It is not clear as to whether or not it has this effect on squirrels. This particular health benefit is most likely due to the flavanols found in this food.
Numerous studies have shown that chocolate can potentially enhance a person’s overall brain function. This includes short-term memory and ability to focus.
Is it okay to give Squirrels Dark Chocolate?
While milk chocolate tends to have around 60 milligrams of theobromine, dark chocolate contains a whopping 200 milligrams. This means that this type of chocolate poses the most risk to squirrels and many other animals. You should never give a squirrel any dark chocolate, as even a relatively small amount could kill them.
Can I Feed Squirrels Chocolate Covered Nuts?
You might think that it is okay to give squirrels chocolate covered nuts, as nuts make up a big part of their natural diet. This food still contains theobromine, which as we discussed is highly toxic to these animals. Pretty much any food that includes any type of chocolate is extremely unsuitable for these animals. Any health benefits they might gain from the nuts will be greatly outweighed by the poisonous nature of the chocolate.
Theobromine Levels in Chocolate
We know that chocolate contains a substance known as theobromine, which is very harmful to squirrels. Below we will take a look at how much of this chemical is in each type of chocolate.
- Dark chocolate: 179 to 228 milligrams of theobromine per 1 ounce.
- Unsweetened baking chocolate: 376 milligrams per 1 ounce.
- Cocoa Powder: 142 milligrams per tablespoon.
- Hot cocoa: 170 milligrams per cup.
- Semi-sweet chocolate chips: 138 milligrams per 1 ounce.
- Milk chocolate: 60 milligrams per 1 ounce.
As you can see, there is quite a bit of this toxic substance in just about every type of chocolate. No matter what form it takes, this food is very dangerous to squirrels.
Can Squirrels Eat White Chocolate?
White chocolate contains significantly less theobromine than other types of chocolate—around 0.25 to 1 milligram per ounce. It does, however, typically have a lot of sugar and fat, which is not good for squirrels. This food is very dangerous to these furry critters for a number of reasons.
The main problem with squirrels eating chocolate (other than consuming theobromine), is the sugar and fat that is found in these confections. Sugar in particular is not part of a squirrel’s nature diet, and too much of it on a regular basis can kill them.
While it might seem like white chocolate is a good alternative for squirrels, it is still not good for them at all. Even small amounts of white chocolate can do quite a bit of damage to these animals.
Is the Cacao Plant Toxic to Squirrels?
The cacao plant itself actually doesn’t pose any health risks to squirrels. It is mostly the seeds of this plant that are dangerous to these animals. This is only after they undergo a number of processes. Lots of animals in the wild eat these plants without any negative consequences to their overall health.
Can Squirrels Eat Chocolate and How Much Chocolate can Squirrels Tolerate?
It is difficult to know exactly how much chocolate a squirrel can tolerate before it becomes seriously ill or dies. This is why it is a good idea to not give these animals any amount of this food. A tiny piece of chocolate is unlikely to do irreparable harm to a squirrel, but we know that larger quantities can be fatal.
If you were to give a squirrel an entire chocolate bar, they could very well die as a direct result. It partially depends on the type of chocolate as well as the age of the squirrel. The older the animal is, the less likely they will be to survive ingesting a large quantity of theobromine within a short period of time.
If you do Feed Squirrels Chocolate
There are some things to keep in mind if you insist on giving a squirrel some chocolate. It is best to only give them milk chocolate, as it contains the least amount of theobromine. You should only give them a very small piece, and avoid doing this on a regular basis. Just because the squirrel eagerly eats this food doesn’t mean it is good for them at all.
As long as you follow these guidelines, the squirrels you feed shouldn’t experience any major health issues. Giving them this food on a consistent basis can cause obesity, which comes with a number of problems in and of itself.
Can Squirrels Eat Chocolate? Chocolate is far from an ideal food to give squirrels, mostly due to the substance known as theobromine. This chemical has a well-documented toxic effect on many animals, including squirrels and dogs. The high amounts of sugar and fat in most chocolate also make it an unsuitable snack for squirrels. If you give these animals this food, it should only be as a treat once in a while. It doesn’t take a tremendous amount of chocolate to have fatal results. It is important that you keep this in mind when feeding the squirrels around your home.