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Owners admit not knowing how toxic chocolate can be to their pets, research finds


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Pet owners should put their chocolate eggs away from their furry friends at Easter, experts have warned.

It comes as a survey by GoCompare Pet Insurance noticed a spike in poisoning during the holiday, with almost a third (32%) of UK dog owners unaware of the harms chocolate can cause to their pet's health.

Almost one third of dog owners in the UK are unaware of the dangers that chocolate can cause to their pet
Almost one third of dog owners in the UK are unaware of the dangers that chocolate can cause to their pet

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has also revealed that six in ten vets have treated such incidents every Easter between 2016 and 2018.

Ceri McMillan, from the insurance company, said: “Chocolate is a big part of Easter – with an estimated 80 million Easter eggs sold each year in the UK – and we don’t suggest for one minute that you shouldn’t indulge in chocolate over the Easter weekend, but it’s important to take steps to protect your pup or feline friend if there’s an abundance of chocolate in the house.

“It was worrying to see that only 68% of dog owners knew that chocolate could be poisonous for their pet, meaning that there’s potentially a third of pet owners who own around four million dogs, who could unwittingly feed their dogs chocolate this Easter.”

Despite being delicious to humans, chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, which can be toxic for both cats and dogs as their digestive systems are unable to break it down.

The effects of chocolate poisoning can depend on the amount and type of chocolate eaten, as well as the size and breed of the pet.

Symptoms can occur any time from four to 24 hours after consumption and can last up to three days.

These include vomiting, which can sometimes have blood, an increased heart rate, showing signs of restlessness, or have diarrhoea.

Raisins and sultanas, found in hot cross buns and simnel cakes, and xylitol, found in sugar-free treats, can also be dangerous for cats and dogs if ingested.

The chemical theobromine is harmful to dogs and the higher the cocoa content in a chocolate the greater the risk
The chemical theobromine is harmful to dogs and the higher the cocoa content in a chocolate the greater the risk

As Google searches for questions like ‘how much chocolate can a dog eat’, ‘signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs’ and ‘how much chocolate will kill a dog’ tend to rise at this time of the year, the BVA has issued a warning along with a handy guide to recognise the symptoms of chocolate poisoning.

The association's president, Justine Shotton, explained many cases were luckily treated as pets were rushed to the practice quickly enough. However, chocolate poisoning is still quite common.

She said: “We all look forward to indulging in sweet treats over Easter but it’s important to take precautions to keep curious pets out of trouble.

“If you suspect that your pet has eaten chocolate, don’t delay in calling your vet first for advice. Prompt veterinary treatment within the first six hours of eating chocolate can often be critical to a positive outcome. Your vet will want to know how much chocolate your pet has eaten and what type. If possible, keep any labels and wrappers and have the weight of your pet to hand.”

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