The PDSA is urging animal owners to keep their Easter goodies out of reach of their pets’ paws after research revealed that around 468,000 dogs are fed human chocolate by their owners.
The veterinary charity’s annual PAW Report, which surveyed thousands of owners across the UK about their pets’ health and wellbeing, found more than a fifth (22%) of owners in the North East owned up to feeding their dogs the treat, while only 1% of owners in the South West admitted to this.
PDSA senior vet Elaine Pendlebury said: “It’s very worrying to hear that chocolate intended for humans is being given to pets as a treat. It contains an ingredient called theobromine which is toxic to many animals, and the effects can prove fatal if not treated.”
High-quality dark chocolate poses the biggest risk to dogs. A small bar of dark chocolate contains more than enough theobromine to fatally poison a small dog such as a Yorkshire Terrier, the charity said.
PDSA vets and nurses see more than 400 cases of chocolate poisoning in dogs every year and often see a surge in cases around Easter and Christmas when chocolate is more prevalent in people’s homes.
The life of Bruiser, a labrador/boxer cross, was saved by PDSA vets after he ate several boxes of chocolate just before Christmas last year.
His owner, Zoe Sivarajah, 21, from Gillingham, Kent, said: “We’d left some presents in the living room and had only been out for an hour, but came home to find wrapping and packaging strewn all over the place.
“From the rubbish we worked out Bruiser had eaten six boxes of chocolate and a packet of sweets. He started being sick so we took him to PDSA. I knew chocolate wasn’t good for dogs but finding out it could be fatal was a shock.”
Jennie Keen, head nurse at Gillingham PDSA pet hospital, said: “Bruiser was very lucky - the amount of chocolate he had eaten could easily have been fatal, but we were quickly able to give him the life-saving treatment he needed. I would urge all owners to ‘pet-proof’ their houses this Easter.”
Ms Pendlebury added: “Many owners love giving their pet a treat but are unaware of the dangers of chocolate and other harmful foods.
“The effects of chocolate poisoning in dogs usually appear within four hours of eating, and can last as long as 24 hours. Initial signs can include excessive thirst, vomiting, a sore stomach and restlessness. These symptoms can then progress to tremors, an abnormal heart rhythm, raised body temperature and rapid breathing. In severe cases dogs can experience fits, kidney failure and can even die.”
The charity advises owners to store chocolates safely and securely in the household and says a new toy or a long walk is a better alternative to treats.