Chocolate poses a serious risk to your pet

The idea of a cheeky pet dog sneakily wolfing down the children’s Easter eggs is admittedly a fairly comical image.

But once you understand how dangerous this is for the health of a beloved pet then it quickly becomes no laughing matter.

I know first hand how frightening it is to see a dog which has gorged itself on chocolate becoming distressed and very, very sick. My Bassett Hound Star nearly died a couple of years ago after she found our stash of chocolate eggs and ate the lot – five large eggs and six smaller ones.

She looked so unwell and was drooling chocolate from the sides of her mouth.

My immediate reaction was to ring the vet as I’d read that chocolate was poisonous to dogs - he asked us to take her in immediately.

As we bundled the dog in the car, the children got increasingly distraught as we all realised the seriousness of the situation. The vets stayed open and asked us to leave Star overnight so they could pump her stomach and keep an eye on her.

After a sleepless night at home we were relieved to be told she was well enough to be collected in the morning and, although she was very weak and had a hoarse throat from vomiting, she recovered within a few days.

What happened to Star could happen to any dog, whatever their nature. Star isn’t a scavenging dog; she’s never fed scraps and she doesn’t beg for food but she still ate an astonishing amount of chocolate and it put her life at risk.

What’s the risk?

Aside from chocolate, Easter also poses other health hazards to dogs. Did you know that raisins, currants and sultanas – popular ingredients in Simnel cakes and hot cross buns – are also toxic for dogs?

Chocolate contains a stimulant called theobromine (rather like caffeine) that is poisonous to dogs if eaten, while the compounds found in sultanas, currants and raisins can cause rapid kidney failure.

Other risks around the home at Easter include traditional spring flowers, such as daffodils and tulips, which are toxic to pets. As well the flowers being dangerous, water drunk from a vase of daffodils can make dogs unwell. 

What’s the cost?

According to NFU Mutual’s data, in 2016 the average vet’s bill for dogs who had eaten the wrong thing was £600. Rat poison or slug pellets continued to be the most common culprit, while nearly one in four claims involved chocolate and nearly one in 10 dried fruit or grapes.

As dog lovers, the last thing we want to do is put our four-legged friends in danger so it’s worth taking some extra precautions this Easter to avoid an emergency visit to the vet.

NFU Mutual’s Easter danger list for dogs:

  • Chocolate – keep Easter eggs well out of your dog’s reach and make sure your dog doesn’t find any leftover ‘treasure’ from Easter Egg hunts
  • Anything with currants, raisins or sultanas – so hot cross buns and Simnel cake are all off the menu
  • Bones from cooked food – especially chicken bones
  • Easter flowers – such as daffodils, tulips and crocuses and bulbs
  • Alcohol