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Half a Million Owners Feed Pets Toxic Chocolate

18 April 2014

UK - PDSA is urging pet owners to keep their Easter goodies well out of reach of their pets’ paws this weekend, after research revealed that around 468,000 dogs are fed human chocolate by their owners, as they don’t understand that it is highly poisonous to pets and can prove fatal.

The extent of this worrying trend is revealed by the leading veterinary charity in its annual PAW Report – the largest pet health study of its kind – which surveyed thousands of owners across the UK about their pet’s health and wellbeing.

Owners in the North East are the biggest culprits, with more than a fifth (22 per cent) owning up to feeding their dogs the toxic treat, while owners in the South West are best behaved – only one per cent admit to this.

dog, bruiser, chocolate
PDSA Head Nurse Jennie Keen with Bruiser

PDSA Senior Vet, Elaine Pendlebury, said: “It’s very worrying to hear that chocolate intended for humans is being given to pets as a treat. It contains an ingredient called theobromine which is toxic to many animals, and the effects can prove fatal if not treated.”

High quality dark chocolate poses the biggest risk to dogs.

A small bar of dark chocolate contains more than enough theobromine to fatally poison a small dog such as a Yorkshire Terrier.

PDSA vets and nurses see more than 400 cases of chocolate poisoning in dogs every year and often see a surge in cases around Easter and Christmas when chocolate is more prevalent in people’s homes.

Cases like Bruiser, a Labrador/Boxer cross from Gillingham in Kent whose life was saved recently by PDSA vets after wolfed down several boxes of chocolate just before Christmas last year.

His owner, Zoe Sivarajah said: “We’d left some presents in the living room and had only been out for an hour, but came home to find wrapping and packaging strewn all over the place. From the rubbish we worked out Bruiser had eaten six boxes of chocolate and a packet of sweets! He started being sick so we took him to PDSA, I knew chocolate wasn’t good for dogs but finding out it could be fatal was a shock.”

dog, chocolate, poison
Owners Jazz and Zoey will be keeping chocolate behind locked doors this Easter.

Bruiser was given emergency treatment and thankfully, made a full recovery. The Head Nurse at Gillingham PDSA pet hospital, Jennie Keen, said: “Bruiser was very lucky – the amount of chocolate he had eaten could easily have been fatal, but we were quickly able to give him the life-saving treatment he needed. I would urge all owners to ‘pet-proof’ their houses this Easter.”

And it’s not just chocolate eggs that could shatter the peace of the spring break, according to PDSA. Other popular Easter goodies like hot cross buns contain raisins, which are also toxic to pets.

Elaine adds: “Many owners love giving their pet a treat but are unaware of the dangers of chocolate and other harmful foods. The effects of chocolate poisoning in dogs usually appear within four hours of eating, and can last as long as 24 hours. Initial signs can include excessive thirst, vomiting, a sore stomach and restlessness. These symptoms can then progress to tremors, an abnormal heart rhythm, raised body temperature and rapid breathing. In severe cases dogs can experience fits, kidney failure and can even die.”

PDSA advises owners to store chocolates in the same way as medicines when they have pets in their household – safely and securely. And for those who can’t resist giving their four-legged friends a little Easter treat, a new toy or a nice long walk is a better alternative than treats.

Regional Breakdown

Owners who admit to feeding their dogs human chocolate:
North East 22 per cent
West Midlands 10 per cent
North West 7 per cent
Yorkshire & The Humber 6 per cent
London 6 per cent
Scotland 6 per cent
East of England 4 per cent
Wales 4 per cent
South East 3 per cent
East Midlands 2 per cent
South West 1 per cent

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