Don’t be tempted by those puppy dog eyes – while your dog will love the smell and taste of chocolate, even small amounts it can be toxic to your dog. And at this time of year, chocolate is in abundance in many households.
So the first rule is to keep your Easter eggs out of the reach of your dog, puppy or other pets. As we all know, your pooch can be quite ingenious when it comes to getting to food he or she craves, so this means keeping chocolate in high cupboards – and beware the clever dog that can open kitchen doors, get onto the kitchen counter or even open the fridge! Beware the stealth thief sneaking in when your back is turned.
And watch your children – we have drummed ‘it’s good to share’ into them from an early age – but they should be told never to share their chocolate with their canine friends. Perhaps they can give a special dog treat, or engage in some play activity instead.
The veterinary profession issues warnings every year, as they know that they get an influx of visits at this time, and their own specialist helpline
the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) experiences an increase in enquiries around Easter, Christmas and Valentine’s Day, so it is important for vets to continue spreading the message.
Why is chocolate bad for dogs?
Chocolate is toxic to dogs because it contains theobromine – a naturally occurring chemical found in cocoa beans, which dogs excrete much less effectively than humans.
This can cause sickness, diarrhoea and dehydration, as well as neurological and cardiovascular signs such as a rapid heart rate.
The level of toxicity is dependent on the type of chocolate, with dark chocolate and cocoa powder being the most toxic, and the size of the dog, with smaller dogs and puppies being most at risk. But there is no rule about how much is poisonous.
Dogs are not the only animal at risk from chocolate poisoning. It is also toxic to cats, rabbits and rodents, although vets see fewer cases of ingestion here.
What do I do if my dog eats chocolate?
Call your vet! If you suspect that your dog has ingested chocolate don’t delay in contacting your vet. Even if you only think they may have, but are not sure – it’s better to be safe than sorry. Although fatalities caused by chocolate are rare, they can and do happen, so it is essential to seek veterinary help and advice immediately. The quicker your vet can offer advice and treatment the better.
Depending on the type and amount of chocolate consumed, and the size of the dog, your vet may offer advice on how you can make your dog sick at home (this is not always possible), or may suggest rushing in to see the vet at once (the vet may give an injection to make the dog sick). Speed really is of the essence.
So always have as much information to hand when contacting your vet, including the type and amount of chocolate consumed and the weight of your dog. This will help the vet to give determine the likelihood of problems and give you the best advice.
Remember that over the bank holiday veterinary practices may be operating different opening hours so make sure you know how to get in contact with your vet out of hours in an emergency.
An information leaflet on household items that may be poisonous to pet animals is available to download from the Animal Welfare Foundation’s website: