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PDSA warning to pet owners - avoid 'toxic choc' syndrome this Easter
Buster the dog suffered chocolate poisoning after eating 12 creme eggs
Thousands of pet owners could be putting their pets’ lives in jeopardy this Easter if they feed their pet chocolate intended for people, according to leading veterinary charity, PDSA.
Chocolate is highly poisonous to many pets, with dogs being most commonly affected. A Report from the charity has found that over half a million owners actively feed their dogs human chocolate as a treat, and this figure could rise as chocolate becomes the focus of people’s attention over the coming weeks.
Chocolate contains theobromine,which is highly toxic to dogs and other pets. High quality ‘posh’ chocolate poses the biggest risk to the nation’s pets; an average bar of dark chocolate (30-45g) contains enough theobromine to fatally poison a smaller dog, such as a Yorkshire Terrier.
PDSA Senior Veterinary Surgeon, Sean Wensley, comments: “Easter and chocolate go hand in hand, but people should never feed it to their pets. Every year, vets treat thousands of cases of chocolate poisoning in pets and sadly, for some, the poisoning is fatal.
“Our recent PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report has highlighted a wide range of health and welfare issues facing the UK’s pets. Where the Report focuses specifically on the diets that pets are being fed, it reveals some very worrying findings about the unhealthy and dangerous foods being fed to some pets, of which chocolate is one.”
One of the most memorable cases PDSA vets have dealt with is Buster, a five-year-old Labrador from Derby. He was treated for chocolate poisoning after he sniffed out and wolfed down a dozen chocolate cream eggs. Buster was found by his owner howling, unable to stand and with a swollen abdomen, but luckily the theobromine content of cream eggs is relatively low, and Buster went on to make a full recovery.
But Buster is just one of the many cases of chocolate poisoning that vets deal with every year. The Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS), a national resource which provides information to vets about poisons and associated treatments, reports that on average they receive 150% more calls about chocolate poisoning in the month of Easter than in the following month.
Sean continues: “Dogs have a keen sense of smell, and many will happily sniff out hidden Easter eggs. What is worrying, in addition to these accidents, is the number of people who actively give their pet chocolate intended for humans, many of whom are unaware of the potentially fatal consequences.
“In households with pets, chocolate should be stored securely and well out of the reach of prying paws.”
The effects of chocolate poisoning in dogs usually appear within 12 hours and can last up to three days. Initial signs can include excessive thirst, vomiting, diarrhoea, a tender tummy and restlessness. These symptoms 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.
If you suspect that your pet may have eaten chocolate, or is showing any of these signs, PDSA recommends that you contact your vet immediately.
For further information on PDSA or free pet health advice visit www.pdsa.org.uk/pawreport.
*All figures are taken from the PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report produced in conjunction with YouGov. It is the largest report of its kind to assess the health and wellbeing of UK pets. Over 11,000 owners were scored on how well they are caring for their pets’ needs. A total sample of 4675 dog owners were interviewed online. Fieldwork was undertaken between 21 September to 16 November 2010. The figures have been weighted and are representative of dog owners in the UK (aged 18+).
VPIS figures provided by Head of the VPIS, Alexander Campbell. VPIS offers 24-hour telephone advice for veterinary professionals on the diagnosis and management of poisoned animals.