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Death by daffs and chocolate
Nothing says Easter quite like chocolates and daffodils - yet these seemingly harmless seasonal pleasures are set to cause illness and even death among UK pets over the next month, according to veterinary charity PDSA.
Every Easter, vets see a sharp increase in pet poisoning casualties caused by these seasonal items. In April 2009 the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) recorded a 150% increase in the number of enquiries about pets poisoned by chocolate compared to March that year. The most common victims were curious dogs, who frequently sniffed out chocolates left within their reach. Some dogs were also fed human chocolate as treats by well-meaning but misguided owners.
Similarly, cases of daffodil poisoning peaks around Easter, with most pet owners unaware of their potential danger to animals. In 2009 the VPIS found that over one third of all daffodil poisoning enquiries occurred at this time of year.
This year, in a bid to cut the casualties, PDSA has teamed up with the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) - a national resource providing information to vets about poisons and the associated treatment.
Elaine Pendlebury, PDSA Senior Veterinary Surgeon, said: “Vets across the UK are poised for an influx of Easter poisoning cases over the next few weeks. Easter wouldn’t be Easter without chocolate and daffodils, but unfortunately, neither are pet friendly.
“Many dogs, like us, enjoy the taste of chocolate and will happily eat it if they get the chance. When it comes to daffodils all parts of the plant are potentially dangerous, even the water these flowers stand in. The bulbs are highly toxic to pets and can prove fatal if consumed.”
Elaine added: “The greatest chocolate danger is from the luxury brands intended for humans that have a higher cocoa content making it much more toxic to pets. Just a small bar of dark chocolate could fatally poison a Yorkshire Terrier!”
With daffodils, the main risk to pets is from the bulbs, as Nick Sutton, Specialist in Poisons Information at the VPIS explains: “Most of the enquiries we receive regarding daffodils concern dogs digging up and eating freshly planted bulbs. Animals can become very unwell after eating the bulbs. Although this is the most toxic part of the plant, eating the leaves, flowers and even drinking the water can prove harmful.”
The main problem, according to Elaine, is that owners simply aren’t aware of these seasonal dangers. To help people learn more, here are some seasonal facts from PDSA and the VPIS:
Chocolate poisoning facts:
- Large amounts of chocolate can poison dogs and other pets due to the toxic effects of theobromine, a component of chocolate similar to caffeine.
- The effects of chocolate poisoning in dogs usually appears within six to 12 hours of ingestion, and can last as long as 72 hours.
- Initial signs can include excessive thirst, vomiting, diarrhoea abdominal tenderness and restlessness. This can then progress to hyperactivity, tremors, abnormal heart rate, hyperthermia and rapid breathing.
- In severe cases there are fits, heart beat irregularities, coma or even death.
Daffodil poisoning facts:
- Daffodil bulbs are the most toxic part of this plant. They contain chemicals called alkaloids and glycosides which are hazardous to pets. These chemicals are present in all parts of the flower, but most concentrated in the bulb.
- The lethal dose can be as low as 15g of bulbs – this could be as little as just one bulb!
- Even the water the daffodils stand in is toxic and can cause stomach upsets in pets if drunk.
Sweet-toothed Labrador, Buster, from Derby made an egg-cellent recovery last Easter thanks to PDSA – after he collapsed with chocolate poisoning from wolfing down a dozen chocolate cream eggs!
Five-year-old Buster’s owner brought the chocolate eggs as an Easter treat for her grandchildren. She hid them away in her spare bedroom, but didn’t count on mischievous Buster sniffing them out.
PDSA Senior Veterinary Surgeon, Vicky Sims, who treated Buster last year says: “Buster was quite lucky. Cream eggs have a fairly low theobromine content because they’re half fondant. Higher quality ‘posh’ chocolates are the most dangerous as they have high concentrated doses of theobromine – which poisons pets.
“Many people are simply not aware that even small amounts of human chocolate can kill a little dog. If you want to indulge your pet you should opt for a healthy pet treat instead.”