Keep chocolate treats well away from pets this Easter, warn vets

Spaniel

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is reminding pet owners to keep all chocolate well away from dogs, puppies and other pets this Easter. Although awareness about chocolate poisoning is increasing amongst dog owners vets are still seeing urgent cases because chocolate treats have not been secured out of reach.

The Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS), a subscription advice service for vets, cites chocolate poisoning in its top ten list of common poisons and it was the number enquiry for dogs in 2012.

VPIS statistics show that the number of enquiries about chocolate poisoning has been coming down in recent years thanks to increased owner awareness but VPIS always experience an increase in enquiries around Easter, Christmas and Valentine’s Day so it is important to continue spreading the message.

Chocolate is toxic to dogs because it contains theobromine – a naturally occurring chemical found in cocoa beans, which dogs excrete much less effectively than humans. It can cause sickness, diarrhoea and dehydration, as well as neurological and cardiovascular signs.

The level of toxicity is dependent on the type of chocolate, with dark chocolate and cocoa powder being the most toxic, and the size of the dog, with smaller dogs and puppies being most at risk.

Chocolate is also toxic to cats, rabbits and rodents but vets see fewer cases of ingestion.

Commenting, Robin Hargreaves, President Elect of the BVA, said:

“If you suspect that your dog has ingested chocolate don’t delay in contacting your vet. Although fatalities caused by chocolate are rare they can and do happen, so it is essential to seek veterinary help and advice immediately. The quicker we can offer advice and treatment the better.

“Always have as much information to hand when contacting your vet, including the type and amount of chocolate consumed and the weight of your dog. This will help the vet to give determine the likelihood of problems and give you the best advice.

“Remember that over the bank holiday veterinary practices may be operating different opening hours so make sure you know how to get in contact with your vet out of hours in an emergency.”

The Animal Welfare Foundation, the BVA’s own charity, provides information on a range of household items that may be poisonous to pet animals in its leaflet Pets and Poisons available to download from the AWF website.

Further Information

The Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) www.vpisuk.co.uk is an internationally renowned subscription-based poisons information service for veterinary surgeons, advising on the management of approximately 25,000 cases each year. The VPIS is a division of Medical Toxicology and Information Services Ltd (MT&IS Ltd), formerly part of Guy’s and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust based in London.

In 2012 VPIS received 989 enquiries about chocolate ingestion; 1192 in 2011; and 1512 in 2010. Most cases involve dogs, but occasionally VPIS receives enquiries about cats, rodents, rabbits and birds.

The AWF leaflet ‘Pets and Poisons’ is available to download at http://www.bva-awf.org.uk/pet-care-advice/pets-and-poisons. Hard copies can be ordered from the Animal Welfare Foundation in return for a donation to the charity which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. To order the leaflets contact bva-awf@bva.co.uk or 020 7908 6375.