Vets issue chocolate warning to pet owners this Easter

Woman celebrating Easter with her pet dog. (Getty Images)
Vets have issued a warning to keep chocolate treats away from pets this Easter. (Getty Images) (Getty)

Dog owners are being warned of the dangers of chocolate consumption ahead of Easter this weekend.

Just one small chocolate egg or six Cadbury’s Mini Eggs could be enough to cause harm to your dog this Easter weekend, vets have shared.

It’s estimated that, as a nation, we buy between 80-90m Easter eggs every year.

For humans, Easter chocolate is the ultimate treat, but the brown stuff is actually incredibly toxic for our fury friends, which means that every Easter thousands of dogs are rushed for emergency veterinary treatment after accidentally consuming a chocolate egg or more.

Vets Now has revealed that they saw a 95% increase in cases over the Easter weekend last year, with an 85% increase in chocolate-related cases compared to the previous week.

Further research from the RSPCA revealed that over a 14-day period last Easter, its helpline recorded a 136% increase in calls regarding pets ingesting chocolate, compared to the rest of the year.

Not unexpectedly, 91.5% of these cases involved dogs, followed by cats at 4.7%, then rabbits at 2.2%, birds at 1.2% and ferrets at 0.3%.

Vets are now urging pet owners to keep Easter treats, which can be toxic for dogs and dangerous for cats, out of the way of probing paws.

To help protect your pooch this Easter, it is important to keep track of any chocolates brought into the house and store them safely out of reach, up high and behind the closed doors of cupboards.

For those keeping up traditions of a festive chocolate egg hunt, it is vital to keep your dog away during this activity and ensure all the hidden chocolates are found before welcoming them back to the area.

"Unfortunately, we see a big rise in chocolate toxicity cases at Easter and it shows owners can never be too careful," explains Dave Leicester, head of Telehealth at Vets Now.

"Our advice is always to keep chocolate treats well away from your dog. As long as it’s treated early and there’s been no organ damage, the prognosis for chocolate toxicity is generally good. But we’d like to help pet owners avoid a trip to the emergency room over Easter."

Chocolate is toxic to dogs. (Getty Images)
Chocolate is toxic to dogs. (Getty Images) (Getty)

Why is chocolate toxic to dogs?

Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, which is poisonous and highly toxic for both dogs and cats.

How toxic depends on the amount of chocolate your pet has consumed and smaller dogs or puppies face a higher risk due to their size.

Dark chocolate and high % cocoa chocolate usually poses the highest danger but theobromine can still be found in milk chocolate.

With the average chocolate Easter eggshell containing between 90 to 200g of milk chocolate, that on its own is enough to cause toxicity in medium-sized dogs and smaller dogs.

A dark chocolate egg poses a much higher risk and even just 90g could be toxic for large dogs weighing 25 kg or more. With small breeds or puppies, that quantity could be life-threatening.

Cadbury’s Mini Eggs may be a popular Easter snack but a family-sized 270g bag is enough to cause toxicity in a medium sized (12-25kg) dog. It could also cause serious problems for small breeds weighing between 5 to 12kg.

A standard small bag at 80g could be a serious threat for toy breeds or puppies weighing 5kg or less - with as few as 6 mini eggs enough to potentially cause toxicity.

Dogs are at a higher risk, because they are more likely to eat chocolate, but cats can still suffer from chocolate toxicity, so vets advise that it’s avoided in all quantities.

A woman with her dog at Easter. (Getty Images)
Pet owners are being advised to keep chocolate treats out of reach this Easter. (Getty Images) (Mariia Zotova via Getty Images)

Signs of chocolate poisoning in your pet

The first signs of chocolate poisoning to look out for are:

  • Restlessness

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhoea

  • Excessive thirst

If untreated, these clinical signs may develop into hyperactivity, tremors, abnormal heart rate, hyperthermia, and rapid breathing.

"In severe cases, dogs may even experience fits and heartbeat irregularities and some cases can result in coma or death," Leicester adds.

To help concerned pet owners deal with cases of suspected chocolate poisoning, Vets Now has developed an online chocolate toxicity calculator to work out whether your dog has eaten a potentially toxic amount.

Owners just need to put in their dog's weight or size, the type of chocolate they ate and an estimation of the amount.

A good tip is to look for wrappers or foil to guess how much has been consumed.

If you know for certain your pet has eaten something toxic, do not delay, call your daytime vet or your local emergency clinic.

Other Easter pet risks

It isn't just your Easter chocolate stash that could pose a threat to your pet this bank holiday weekend, owners are also being advised to keep an eye on other traditional treats..

"Hot cross buns, onions and fatty barbeque leftovers can cause major implications for your pet’s health," RSPCA WA lead veterinarian Mairi Joyce warned in a statement.

"Cooked bones are brittle and small shards can get stuck in your animal’s throat or pierce the stomach lining. Surgery to remove an internal blockage is expensive and will easily creep into the thousands.

"If in doubt as to whether your pet has eaten something they shouldn’t, always contact your vet straight away for advice. It’s much better to be safe than sorry."

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