Choc-horror: Glasgow pup saved by PDSA

Thanks to PDSA, Glasgow pup Shabba will be enjoying the festive season with his family after needing emergency treatment when he devoured a chocolate version of ‘Elf on the Shelf’.

The Bichon Frise, a much-loved family pet, got his paws on a bag with the tasty treat inside when he was just four-months-old. His owner Sarah McCullagh (38) had brought it for her 14-year-old son William.

“I could smell chocolate on Shabba’s face when he came over to me and thought I was going mad,” Sarah explained. “Then I noticed his mouth was darker than usual and I realised what had happened. I know how dangerous chocolate can be to dogs and was extremely worried about Shabba’s health so I rang our local PDSA straightaway.”

Sarah’s local PDSA confirmed they could help Shabba and advised her to take him to our out of hours provider Vets Now in Glasgow’s Charing Cross. Once there, the vets made Shabba sick and he then spent the night on an IV drip.

Luckily, thanks to Sarah’s quick thinking and the treatment, which was funded by PDSA, Shabba, made a full recovery and was able to return home the following day with medication and under strict instructions to rest.

Ahead of the Christmas period, Sarah and PDSA is warning other pet owners of the dangers festive treats can pose to furry friends.

She added: “Even the smallest bit of chocolate can be poisonous to dogs so I dread to think what would have happened to Shabba without treatment. Money is tight, especially with the cost of living rising, and without PDSA’s help we would have struggled to afford the care she needed to save her life.”

PDSA Veterinary Nurse Shauna Spooner said: “It was estimated that Shabba had eaten about 120g of milk chocolate, which is a dangerous amount for a puppy of his small size, so we knew he was at great risk. 

“Thankfully he was brought in very quickly and the out of hours vets at Vets Now were able to give him life-saving treatment before too much of the toxin got into his system. After a few hours on IV fluids, his heart rate started to come down and they were able to discharge him with medication to take at home.”

Photos showing Boomi recovering from his injuries at home

Sarah, who lives in Riddrie with her partner, Lance, her son - who is a young carer for her, and daughter Avril, added:

“I suffer with my mental health and, at the time of the incident, we were in lockdown so it was particularly bad. I don’t know what I would have done if it wasn’t for PDSA, I couldn’t cope without Shabba. The staff at Vets Now were all so friendly and kind, reassuring me and helping to keep me calm.”

Sarah was diagnosed with PTSD following a traumatic birth with her firstborn William, where she died for several minutes before hospital staff were able to bring her back to life.

“We bought Shabba so that William could have some respite and I would still have company,” Sarah explained. “Shabba means the absolute world to me, he is my best friend, and I will always be so very grateful to the PDSA for their help. They kept our family together.

“It took him a little while to fully recover from his ordeal but thankfully he is back to his usual hyperactive self now and we’ve made sure he hasn’t been able to get near to any chocolate since.”

Shauna shared some key signs to look out for if you think your pet might have eaten chocolate.

“Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, which is toxic to dogs. In severe cases, chocolate poisoning in dogs can cause fits and even death. There are some signs you can look out for if you think your pet may have accidentally eaten chocolate:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • A tender tummy and restlessness
  • Tremors
  • A racing heart or abnormal heart rhythm
  • Raised body temperature and rapid breathing

“The higher the cocoa content of the chocolate, the more dangerous it is, so dark chocolate poses the biggest risk to pets. If you suspect your dog has eaten any amount of chocolate, call your vet straight away for advice, don’t wait for symptoms to appear.”

In times of hardship pets like Shabba will still fall ill or become injured and need emergency care. At PDSA, we are appealing for donations so that we can continue to support owners who have nowhere else to turn by providing life-saving care to vulnerable pets.

PDSA is the UK’s leading veterinary charity. Through our 48 Pet Hospitals and Pet Care scheme, we save the lives of poorly pets who would otherwise be left untreated.

Every year, we helped over 388,000 pets. Without us, emergency cases like Shabba's would be left untreated and many pets could lose their lives or be separated from families who love them.

We wouldn’t be here for dogs like Shabba without your support. Please consider donating today.

Give pets like Shabba a fighting chance

Pets who have been there for us during the cost of living crisis deserve somewhere to turn when they need life-saving treatment.

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