Vets are calling on pet owners to safely secure all chocolate treats and hot cross buns well out of reach of curious animals to avoid an emergency trip to the vets over the Easter weekend.
Easter can spark a deluge of chocolate treats into UK households, leading to a spike in cases of chocolate poisoning among pets. And with traditional egg hunts further exacerbating the risks, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has issued a warning to owners along with a handy guide to recognising the symptoms.
BVA senior vice president Justine Shotton said: “Sweet treats and egg hunts are a fun part of Easter for many families but it’s vital we all take steps to protect our pets and avoid cutting the celebrations short with an emergency trip to the vets.
“Chocolate eggs and bunnies, and even hot cross buns, may seem harmless but can be life-threatening for some pets, especially dogs, who can get extremely sick even from small amounts.”
Ms Shotton continued: “As a vet, I’ve treated many cases of chocolate ingestion over the holidays. Luckily, the vast majority of pets were brought in quickly meaning we could treat them successfully. I’d urge every owner to be aware of the risks of chocolate and raisin or grape poisoning so they can act promptly should the worst happen.”
Chocolate, especially dark chocolate and cocoa powder, can be dangerous for all pets even in very small quantities.
Dogs are particularly susceptible to poisoning due to a chemical called theobromine, which is found naturally in cocoa beans.
Theobromine takes a long time to be broken down inside a dog’s digestive system, which means that even a tiny amount of chocolate can result in toxic levels, especially for smaller dogs and puppies.
Chocolate toxicity cases often spike over celebratory periods such as Easter and Christmas and, with many practices closed, accessing emergency care can be more difficult and will be more costly than usual for worried owners.
BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession surveys from 2016 to 2018 revealed that six in 10 vets (60%) had treated cases of chocolate poisoning over Easter each year. Raisins and sultanas, found in hot cross buns and Simnel cakes, and xylitol (found in sugar-free treats) can also be dangerous for dogs and cats if ingested.
Ms Shotton said: “Symptoms of chocolate poisoning usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and can last for up to three days. Initially, pets are likely to experience excessive thirst, vomiting, diarrhoea and restlessness.
“This can develop into symptoms of hyperactivity, tremors, abnormal heart rate, hyperthermia and rapid breathing. Severe cases may result in fits and heartbeat irregularities, and even coma and death. Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in some dogs so your vet may recommend your pet has blood tests or is put on fluids if there is any delay in being seen.”