Chocolate eggs are all part of the fun at Easter, but dog owners need to be on alert for wrappers and chocolate left lying around
Chocolate is poisonous to dogs because it contains theobromine and caffeine. Naturally found in cacao beans, the amount of theobromine depends on the type of chocolate, with darker, purer chocolate varieties carrying the highest levels.
Southern Cross Pet Insurance General Manager Anthony McPhail says it’s important for pet owners to be on guard this Easter to prevent chocolate poisoning in their dogs.
“In 2017, we paid nearly 400 claims totalling $22,536.41 for the treatment of chocolate poisoning in dogs, with vet bills ranging from around $100 to $1,000 per case,” he says.
“It can be serious and in some cases fatal if your dog eats large amounts of chocolate. When it comes to your furry friend, it’s not worth the risk and better to keep chocolate well out of reach.”
And even if you think your Easter egg stash is well-hidden, don’t underestimate a hungry pooch. Southern Cross Pet Insurance customer Stephanie Pitt says her Lowchen Cross dog, Lulu, sniffed out some Christmas chocolate her daughter had buried at the bottom of a container.
“She had forgotten it was there until we found the empty wrapper on the floor in her room. Lulu had managed to find it, pull it out and eat it,” says the Red Beach, North Auckland, resident.
Stephanie says Lulu vomited shortly afterwards so she was taken to the emergency vet, where her treatment cost $188.
“Having gone through this experience, I would definitely recommend that you check your kids’ chocolate is safely secured. Simply burying it at the bottom of something may not be a good idea if you have a dog like Lulu,” Stephanie says.
As little as 60g could be fatal
A small dog weighing 10kg would only need to eat 60 grams of dark chocolate to be at risk of dying from theobromine poisoning — this is roughly half the amount of a standard-sized Easter egg. For larger dogs weighing around 30kg, such as a Labrador, it would take about 160g of dark chocolate.
Chocolate is also poisonous to cats, however due to their inability to taste sweetness they usually won’t be tempted. Since 2012, 95% of Southern Cross Pet Insurance’s claims for chocolate toxicity have been for dogs.
Early signs that your dog has eaten chocolate include restlessness and hyperactivity as the caffeine kicks in. Vomiting (which may include blood), diarrhoea, rapid breathing, muscle tension, rapid heart rate and seizures may follow. These symptoms can occur between four and 24 hours after your dog consumes chocolate.
Get a vet on the case
If you think your dog has eaten chocolate or is showing symptoms of vomiting, rapid breathing, muscle tension, rapid heart rate or seizures, take them straight to the vet.
Tell your vet how much chocolate you think they may have eaten, what type of chocolate (bring the wrapper, if possible) and what time you think they ate it.
The vet will typically make your dog vomit and may wash out their stomach by feeding them activated charcoal. This will absorb any leftover theobromine in the intestine.