Vets report rise in Easter chocolate poisoning

10 April 2017

Dog owners are being warned to keep chocolate treats away from their pets this Easter as new figures from the British Veterinary Association (BVA) reveal two in three vets treated at least one case of chocolate poisoning last Easter.

BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey, which polled over 1,600 UK vets, shows a marked increase in the number of vets seeing at least one dog with chocolate poisoning compared to the same period in 2015, with the highest number of incidences happening in the south of England.

Chocolate can be highly poisonous to pets as it contains theobromine, a naturally occurring chemical found in cocoa beans, which, while fine for humans, is harmful to dogs and other animals.

British Veterinary Association President Gudrun Ravetz said:
“Easter is great fun for the whole family, but unfortunately dogs like to join in too. With their keen sense of smell, they will easily win Easter egg hunts so wherever chocolate is being stored – inside or outside – make sure it is pet proof and out of reach of inquisitive noses to avoid an emergency trip to the vet. Also remind any visitors over the Easter holidays to keep their chocolate out of the dog’s reach too.

“Over the bank holiday weekend veterinary practice opening hours may vary, so make sure you know how to contact your local vet during Easter. If you suspect your pet has eaten chocolate we’d advise contacting your local vet immediately.”

BVA's survey also highlighted that many pet owners are having to make urgent yet preventable trips to the vets over the Easter holidays, with 11% of vets who saw dogs with chocolate poisoning treating five or more cases.

The effects of chocolate poisoning in dogs, which are most commonly affected amongst pets, usually appear within 12 hours and can last up to three days. First signs can include excessive thirst, vomiting, diarrhoea and restlessness. These symptoms can then develop into hyperactivity, tremors, abnormal heart rate, hyperthermia and rapid breathing. In severe cases, dogs can experience fits and heartbeat irregularities and some cases can result in coma or death. If you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, please contact your local vet immediately.

For more information on household products that are hazardous to pets read the Animal Welfare Foundation's Pets and Poisons leaflet.

BVA Media Office