Pet owners are being advised about the dangers of chocolate this Easter, as vets warn it is the culprit responsible for the greatest number of poisonings in dogs in the UK.
According to figures, Easter is the second busiest time of the year for chocolate related health problems for dogs after Christmas.
Experienced veterinary surgeon Dr Huw Stacey, Head of Clinical Services at Vets4Pets, says a few preparations before the Easter Egg hunts start at home can prevent pet misery.
He said: “Easter is a time when vets often see a significant increase in the number of cases of pets, particularly dogs, being poisoned by eating chocolate.
“We’re noticing a continual increase in the awareness of the dangers of chocolate to our pets, but it’s important we continue spreading the message.
“Dogs that eat chocolate can suffer from sickness, diarrhoea and in severe cases neurological signs like seizures. The level of toxicity depends on the type of chocolate, with high cocoa solid varieties like dark chocolate more hazardous, and also the size and age of the animal.
“Cats, rabbits and rodents can also suffer from health issues after eating chocolate, although cases are much less common when compared to dogs.”
Poisoning from chocolate occurs because of the chemical theobromine, which occurs naturally in cocoa beans. Theobromine takes much longer for animals to process through their bodies, therefore increasing the risk of poisoning through a build-up.
Huw said: “Anyone who suspects that their dog, or any pet, has eaten chocolate, should contact their vet immediately to discuss the likely risk and whether any treatment will be required.
“Fortunately with appropriate treatment deaths are very rare, so pet owners shouldn’t panic if they find their dog or cat has eaten an Easter Egg (or any other chocolate).
“Of course this shouldn’t deter people from enjoying Easter and buying chocolate, they just have to make sure it’s for human consumption and keep it out of the reach of their pets.”