Keeping pets safe from chocolate poisoning

Most of us know that chocolate is poisonous to our pets, but as it’s such a common human treat it can be hard to keep it away from prying paws! Check out our top tips on keeping your pets safe from chocolate.

A lot of us will often have a bit of chocolate around the house, but there are certain times of the year when there might be a lot more in our homes or arriving through the letterbox! Easter, Christmas and birthdays tend to be times for giving chocolate, so it’s important to take extra care around these times to make sure our pets stay safe.

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Which pets are at risk from chocolate poisoning?

Cute dog tilting head to side

In 2019, our PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report found that thousands of owners still give their pet human chocolate as a treat – even though it could be deadly.

Most of the cases of chocolate poisoning our vets see each year involve dogs, however it can be deadly for other pets, too. Cats and rabbits can also be at risk from chocolate poisoning.

We see cases of chocolate poisoning in our Pet Hospitals all year round, but especially around holidays when there’s more chocolate in the home.

 

What should I do if my pet eats chocolate? What are the symptoms of poisoning?

Sad looking labrador

We’d always advise contacting your vet straight away if your pet has eaten something they shouldn’t have, such as chocolate. Some chocolate is more toxic than others, but it’s always better to be safe and contact your vet just in case. You can use this handy calculator to work out the potential risk to your pet, but we'd always recommend calling your vet anyway.

For full advice on symptoms of chocolate poisoning and treatment, visit our Pet Health Hub:

Keeping chocolate away from pets

Black and white cat lying down

Most cases of chocolate poisoning happen when a pet accidentally gets hold of chocolate while their owners aren’t looking. In fact, dogs are naturally curious and opportunists when it comes to food which is probably why we see more cases in dogs.

There are a few steps you can take to keep your pets safe from chocolate around the home:

  • Keep chocolate well out of paws’ reach. A high-up cupboard or even a locked cabinet are ideal.
  • Consider putting something on your letterbox to catch any post. It’s becoming more common to send ‘letterbox gifts’ now. If your pet likes to snoop through your post before you can pick it up you can try to avoid this by attaching something to your letterbox to catch your post before it hits the ground.
  • Don’t give your kids chocolate around pets. It can be hard for children to understand that chocolate is bad for our pets, so they might want to share it with them. Try to avoid giving them any sweet treats around pets and make sure they’ve not dropped any on the floor your dog could sniff out later.
  • Be careful during Easter egg hunts. If you’re thinking of having an Easter egg hunt, keep pets out of the way during the hunt and while you set it up. Make a note of where all the eggs where hidden so you can check they’ve all be found before you let you pets back into the area.
  • Take care giving chocolate as a gift. You can also help to keep other people’s pets safe, too. If you’re giving someone a gift with something edible inside, pop a sticker on it and let them know to keep it well away from curious pets.

 

What can I give my pet instead of chocolate? 

Cat eating treat

We know that you want to include your pet in festivities and family events but it’s never worth risking your pet’s life. If you want to include them at Christmas or Easter, here are some safe alternatives to feeding them chocolate:

  • Healthy, pet safe treats. There are lots of healthy treats made for pets. Be careful though – feeding your pet too many treats alongside their normal food can make them put on weight or upset their stomach.
  • Pet safe chocolate. You can buy chocolate made for your pet from lots of pet shops and supermarkets. This can be really high in calories though, so this should only be given as a very occasional treat to avoid your pet putting on any podge.
  • A new toy. Your pet will really appreciate a new toy. It will last much longer than a piece of food and will keep them happily occupied. You could even make them their own, like this mouse toy for cats, or a destruction box for dogs.
  • A fun game. Playing a game with your pet can be just as much of a treat as food can!
  • Your love and attention. This is what your pet wants more than anything. They don’t need any food treats (especially not toxic chocolate) so long as they’re loved and looked after.

Poisons and hazards

Our pets are curious creatures and, sadly, there are many potential dangers in our homes and gardens. Read our guide to some of the common hidden hazards.

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