Vets issue chocolate warning after 62% treated pets last Easter

More than three in five vets working in daytime practices treated pets for chocolate poisoning during the Easter holidays last year.

A survey by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) found that one in eight treated five or more cases, which is more than double the figure reported over the previous two years.

The findings of the survey chime with stats from our own out-of-hours pet emergency clinics which show a big spike in chocolate poisoning cases at Easter. According to research analysts, shoppers spend an estimated £325 million a year on Easter eggs — with almost three-quarters of the population buying at least one.

Chocolate contains a poisonous chemical called theobromine which is highly toxic to both dogs and cats. The level of toxicity depends on the amount and type of chocolate swallowed, with dark chocolate and cocoa powder being the most dangerous. Small dogs and puppies are most at risk from theobromine poisoning due to their size and weight.

The Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey asked companion animal vets across the UK if they saw any cases of chocolate poisoning in pets during last year’s Easter holiday period.

Some 372 vets completed the survey and, on average, 62% reported having treated at least one case. The highest incidence was in the south of England.

Image of Easter eggs for Vets Now article on dangers of chocolate easter eggs to dogs
More than three in five vets working in daytime practices treated pets for chocolate poisoning during the Easter holidays last year

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The BVA’s president John Fishwick said: “Easter is a time of great fun for the whole family, but chocolate treats meant for humans can be poisonous for our pets. Dogs, in particular, have a keen sense of smell and can easily sniff out sweet treats, so make sure any chocolate goodies are stored securely out of reach of inquisitive noses to avoid an emergency trip to the vet.

“If you suspect that your dog has eaten chocolate, don’t delay in contacting your local vet. The quicker the animal gets veterinary advice and treatment, the better. Your vet will want to know how much chocolate your dog has eaten and what type. If possible, keep any labels and have the weight of the dog to hand.”

The effects of chocolate poisoning in dogs usually appear within 12 hours and can last up to three days. First signs can include excessive thirst, vomiting, diarrhoea and restlessness. These symptoms can then develop into hyperactivity, tremors, abnormal heart rate, hyperthermia and rapid breathing. In severe cases, dogs can experience fits and heartbeat irregularities and some cases can result in coma or death.

Owners who suspect their pet has eaten a dangerous amount of chocolate should not wait for signs or symptoms to appear before they contact a vet. Instead, they should telephone their vet immediately or, out of hours, their nearest Vets Now pet emergency clinic.

Vets Now is open through the night, seven-days-a-week, and day and night on weekends and bank holidays such as Easter, to treat any pet emergencies that may occur. All of Vets Now’s 59 clinics and hospitals have a vet and vet nurse on site at all times.