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Half of dog owners will inadvertantly put their four legged family members at risk this Easter

A shocking new survey** from Dogs Trust has revealed that over 48% of pet dogs have eaten chocolate intended for humans, and over 5% have become seriously ill from it. Of these, 15% have required urgent veterinary treatment and in extreme cases the dogs sadly died from the effects of chocolate poisoning.

To prevent the number of dogs that end up visiting the vet with chocolate poisoning, Dogs Trust is today launching its  "Chocs Away" awareness drive after the survey revealed that 4 in 10 dogs found the chocolate themselves after it was left in easy to find places in the home.

Sadly, many dog owners are simply unaware of the dangers. Over 10% of dogs who ate human chocolate were given the treat by their owners. Easter is a time when we are all tempted to over-indulge, and we might give in to our dogs pleading for a chocolatey treat too. Dogs Trust is advising dog-owners to make sure their four legged friends steer completely clear of chocolate intended for human consumption and instead have to hand some healthy alternatives, such as carrots.

Dogs Trust Veterinary Director, Paula Boyden, comments:

"Apart from the risks of obesity and the obvious dangers of eating the foil wrapping, the biggest risk of eating human chocolate is poisoning, resulting in an emergency dash to the vet and sadly even death. Chocolate contains theobromine, which, tolerated by humans, is extremely toxic to man's best friend. The darker the chocolate, the greater the amount of theobromine. Toxic doses vary according to the size of dog and cocoa solid content of the chocolate.

"Dogs Trust estimates that 50g of plain chocolate could be enough to kill a small dog, such as a Yorkshire Terrier*, whilst just 400g could be enough to kill an average size dog, so we urge people to make sure they keep treats well out of the reach of pesky paws and make sure children don't share their Easter eggs with their furry friends.

"So that your canine companion doesn't feel left out this Easter, we would advise giving them healthy treats such as carrots, cheese or tripe snacks. But, whatever your non-chocolatey treat of choice, just as is the case for us all, moderation is the key to a happy, healthy dog."

So, if you are partial to Easter eggs and want to keep your dog safe, follow these simple rules.

  • Keep your "Chocs Away" - this means hidden out of sight and unavailable to your dog
  • Never feed your dog chocolate intended for humans
  • If your egg is missing and you suspect your dog is the culprit, contact your vet straight away
  • Look out for any of the following symptoms; vomiting containing blood, a sore tummy, excessive thirst, excitability, drooling, rapid heart rate and in severe cases, eplileptic-type fits
  • If your dog is displaying any of these signs then take him immediately to your vet
  • There is no antidote for theobromine poisoning with treatment being symptomatic. Therefore, the sooner treatment is implemented, the greater the chance of recovery
  • If you want to treat your dog this Easter, stick to natural doggy snacks that are kinder to your canine

*Fatal doses of theobromine quoted in the range 90 – 250mg per kg of body weight, from  “The Handbook of Poisoning in Cats and Dogs” by Alexander Campbell and Michael Chapman (Blackwell Science). For the average Yorkshire Terrier we have estimated a body weight of 2.5kg and for an average dog we have estimated a body weight of 25kg.

Cases of death by an Easter egg alone are relatively unlikely, most reported cases of death by theobromine are from dogs eating cocoa powder and cocoa mulch in the garden, so please be vigilant if your dog is also exposed to these products.

**Survey conducted in March 2015 with over 7,780 respondents.

*Photo courtesy of Wendy Lovatt