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Keep pets from avoidable chocolate emergencies over lockdown Easter, urge vets

02 Apr 2020 | COVID-19

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We are urging pet owners to keep Easter chocolate treats well out of reach of inquisitive pets to avoid an emergency trip to the vets, at a time when strict Covid-19 measures mean vets are only able to see emergency cases and may have smaller teams working in practice.

Keep pets from avoidable chocolate emergencies over lockdown Easter, urge vets  Image

We are advising pet owners to be extra careful and keep chocolate eggs and other sweet treats well out of reach of inquisitive pets to avoid an emergency trip to the vets over the Easter holidays. The advice comes as veterinary practices follow strict social distancing measures and have restricted services to emergency and urgent cases only to help curb the spread of coronavirus.

Chocolate can be very dangerous for dogs even in small quantities, and vets usually see a spike in chocolate toxicity cases over festive periods such as Easter and Christmas. With pets spending more time indoors due to the lockdown, there is an increased risk of easy access to these treats.

Findings from our Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey reveal that eight in ten vets (80%) working in companion animal practice saw at least one case of chocolate poisoning over the twelve months leading up to Easter last year. More than half (54%) of the vets had seen three or more cases in this period.

Chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical naturally found in cocoa beans. Dogs metabolise theobromine much more slowly than humans, so even a tiny amount of chocolate can result in toxic levels, especially for smaller dogs and puppies. Cats can also fall sick from eating chocolate, but they are much less inclined to sniff out and eat sweet treats than their canine counterparts.

Raisins and sultanas, found in hot cross buns and simnel cakes, can also be dangerous for dogs and cats if ingested.

BVA President Daniella Dos Santos said:

“While families prepare to celebrate Easter during the Covid-19 lockdown, it’s important to remember to keep any chocolate treats well away from pets to avoid an emergency trip to the vet. Chocolate can be poisonous for our pets and dogs, in particular, can easily sniff out sweet treats, so make sure any chocolate goodies are stored securely out of reach of inquisitive noses.

“This is especially vital at a time when strict social distancing measures mean vets are only able to see emergency cases and may have smaller teams working in the practice as they try to do everything they can to look after pets while protecting clients and themselves.

“If you suspect that your dog has eaten chocolate, don’t delay in calling your vet first for advice on bringing it into the practice. The quicker the animal gets expert veterinary advice and treatment, the better. Your vet will want to know how much chocolate your dog has eaten and what type. If possible, keep any labels and have the weight of the dog to hand.”

Symptoms of chocolate toxicity

Whilst prevention is always better than cure, if your dog does consume chocolate then recognising the signs and promptly seeking veterinary care is vital.

Dogs will usually start showing signs of chocolate toxicity within 12 hours, but symptoms can last for up to three days. Initially, pets are likely to experience excessive thirst, vomiting, diarrhoea and restlessness. These can develop into symptoms of hyperactivity, tremors, abnormal heart rate, hyperthermia and rapid breathing. Severe cases may result in fits and heartbeat irregularities, and even coma and death. If you notice these symptoms in your dog and suspect chocolate ingestion, seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.

For more information on pets and toxic substances, download the free Animal Welfare Foundation ‘Pets and Poisons’ leaflet.

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