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chocolate brownies

Mmmmmmm, Chocolate



Yes, Rats can have chocolate!!!

What is Chocolate?


Chocolate is poisonous to dogs and cats , but seen far less often in cats, presumably due to a cat's finicky eating habits. I've also read that chocolate is harmful to pet birds, horses, pigs and poultry. All, because of the chemical Theobromine that is naturally found in chocolate. But, Theobromine appears to have no adverse affects on rats, and rats LOVE chocolate. The reason that we caution to give rats chocolate in moderation is because chocolate, like other sweet treats, is full of empty calories. It's a dessert, not a main course.

Chocolate Nutrition Facts


Chocolate can be Beneficial to Rats
It is a rare rat, indeed, that doesn't have a sweet tooth for chocolate. If your rat likes chocolate and you suspect that your rat might be ill, or "off", offer it a chocolate chip. If it refuses the treat, your rat could be sick and a vet check is in order. If your rat never did like chocolate try a yogurt chip for the same purpose.

Aminophylline is derived from Theophylline and both of these drugs are synthetic bronchodilators, that is, their purpose is to open up constricted airways to the lungs to help ease breathing in asthma, pneumonia, and bronchitis. Both of these drugs are prescribed to our rats for the above mentioned ailments, but they are not without their adverse side affects.

Theophylline is naturally found in chocolate. Along with chocolate's Theobromine and Caffeine content, a few semi-sweet chocolate chips could help your rat's breathing during respiratory distress. It would stand to reason then, with Theobromine's affects on the heart muscle and nervous system, and caffeine acting as a stimulant, that one should take caution in giving rats chocolate when the rats are on a Veterinarian's prescription for Aminophylline or Theophylline.

Not all chocolate is the same. If the package says "chocolate flavored", as did the bag of Safeway brand chocolate chips that I bought for the rats, it's not real chocolate. They tasted so artificial and waxy that I won't even eat them. Don't buy Baker's chocolate either. It has the highest content of cocoa and the lowest content of cocoa butter and sugar, and it's incredibly bitter. Semi-sweet chocolate has the highest content of Theobromine while still being palatable. I love semi-sweet chocolate myself so my rats have learned to share.


What Kinds of Chocolate are There?
Depending on what is added to (or removed from) the chocolate liquor, different flavors and varieties of chocolate are produced.

* Unsweetened or Baking chocolate is simply cooled, hardened chocolate liquor. It is used primarily as an ingredient in recipes, or as a garnish. Too bitter, tastes yucky.

* Semi-sweet chocolate is used primarily in recipes. It has extra cocoa butter and sugar added. Best kind in my opinion.

* Sweet cooking chocolate is basically the same, with more sugar for taste. Still good as a treat.

* Milk chocolate is chocolate liquor with extra cocoa butter, sugar, milk and vanilla added. This is the most popular form for chocolate. It is primarily an eating chocolate. Remember, contains lactose from the milk. Are your rats lactose tolerant?

* Cocoa is chocolate liquor with much of the cocoa butter removed, creating a fine powder. It can pick up moisture and odors from other products, so you should keep cocoa in a cool, dry place, tightly covered. Cocoa also is bitter unless you add sugar and water, or honey to it to make it palatable. Good for hiding medicines.

* Couverture is a special kind of chocolate. Couverture chocolate has more cocoa butter than normal chocolate, anywhere from 34% to 39% for a really good brand. This type of high quality chocolate is used as a coating for things like chocolate truffles. Go ahead, spoil your rats rotten.

And don't forget the chocolate syrup, the chocolate sauce, the chocolate Boost/Ensure, and the chocolate milk. All are good for mixing and hiding most medicines.


So What About the "Others"?
* White Chocolate is not chocolate. In order to be legally called "chocolate" a product must contain cocoa solids. White chocolate does not contain cocoa solids, that's why it's a smooth, off-white color. Real white chocolate is primarily cocoa butter, sugar, milk and vanilla. There are some products on the market that call themselves white chocolate, but are made with vegetable oils instead of cocoa butter. Because white chocolate does not contain any cocoa solids it has no benefits that semi-sweet chocolate does for respiratory distress. Makes a nice rat treat though.

* Confectioner's chocolate isn't really chocolate at all, but a chocolate flavored candy used by those who are impatient. It was created to melt easily and harden quickly so it's great for chocolate covered fruit, and quick candies, but it doesn't taste all that great. Around Christmas time grocery stores and bulk stores start to carry Confectioner's chocolate for those who like to make their own Christmas Candy. They come in round wafers and have different colors and flavors. Nutrition-wise I would rather give my rats real chocolate rather then this stuff.

* Carob is the fruit of an evergreen tree that grows up to 15 meters. The fruit is a pod 15 to 30 centimeters long and is classified as a legume. It looks like a lima bean pod. Both pods and seeds are used. Carob is grown around the world in warmer climates and is considered a highly nutritious food. Carob contains Vitamin A, B Vitamins, several important minerals, and it's abundant in protein. Carob has one third the calories of chocolate and is virtually fat-free. Carob is used as a chocolate and coffee substitute because it has none of the side affects of the two. Even though Carob tastes something like chocolate it needs an aquired taste. Carob pods have been used to treat diarrhea for centuries. Carob should be taken with plenty of water. Too much Carob will produce the opposite effect and cause constipation. A good treat, BUT IT'S NOT CHOCOLATE, and has none of the benefits that chocolate has for rats.

* Yogurt Chips are supposedly made with the same ingredients as real yogurt, and have the same benefits as yogurt. I question that, but the rats lOVE them. Again, they are not chocolate and do not have the benefits of chocolate. Yogurt chips, also known as yogurt drops and yogies, can be purchased quite expensively from the small animal supplies isles in pet shops, but I purchase mine as small chips in bulk form at grocery and health food stores. Much cheaper that way, and the chips are just paw-size for a rat.

* Other chips can be found in mint, peanut butter, raspberry, and butterscotch flavors. Great treats....BUT THEY'RE NOT CHOCOLATE.


Chocolate For Sick Rats
Chocolate has a high fat content.
Chocolate has a simple sugar for quick energy.
Chocolate has flavonoids which have antioxidant activity to help fight free radicals.
Chocolate contains a compound known as Phenyethylamine which acts as a mood elevator and anti-depressant.
Eating Chocolate makes the brain produce pain-killing opiates, according to a study by a University of Michigan researcher.

All good reasons to indulge our rats in a little chocolate when they are not feeling well.

After all is said and done, you're probably wondering how much chocolate I give to my rats? Once every 3 weeks, my rats get 1 semi-sweet chocolate chip each. Those that have respiratory illness get chocolate more often. Yogurt chips are a more likely treat for every day training.


More Reading on Chocolate for Rats
Chocolate and Rats
Like Chocolate for Ratties
Like Chocolate for Ratties II
Chocolate Toxicity?
Chocolate, An Effective Means of Oral Drug Delivery in Rats
Ability of a Cocoa Product to Correct Chronic Magnesium Deficiency in Rats
Cocoa-drinking rats' teeth were significantly healthier than those of their straight-sugar counterparts






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