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Pet owners urged to keep dogs safe when the Easter Bunny calls

Wednesday, 30 March 2022 by Andrew Drever

Southern Cross Pet Insurance (SCPI) is reminding Kiwis to keep their Easter treats well-hidden from their pets, given the danger both chocolate and raisins pose for dogs.

Chocolate is toxic to dogs, due to its theobromine and caffeine. Darker chocolate can be even more poisonous because it contains higher levels of theobromine. Raisins, currants, and sultanas are also toxic to dogs, so the traditional hot cross buns should be stowed safely away too.

SCPI paid more than $75,412 in chocolate and raisin-related insurance claims for 288 dogs (and one curious cat) in 2021.

Most of those claims related to chocolate poisoning, with one treat-loving pooch requiring an insurance pay out of more than $1,600 after tucking into a chocolate bar. A claim for $680 was also paid out to another dog owner after their pet needed treatment for sultana toxicity.

Southern Cross Pet Insurance General Manager Anthony McPhail says it’s important to keep Easter treats well out of paws’ reach.

“Dogs are famously good at sniffing out the food they shouldn’t be eating, so we’re urging people to stash their Easter goodies – both of the chocolate and hot cross bun variety – in high cupboards,” he said.

“If you’re planning an Easter egg hunt for your family, we’re also recommending pet owners make a note of each treat’s hiding spot and the number of eggs, so dogs don’t discover any chocolate their humans may have left behind. It pays to keep the pooch away from the hunting area too.

“And, while cats generally aren’t tempted by chocolate due to their inability to detect sweetness, chocolate is also poisonous for our feline friends, so it also pays to be wary of leaving such treats in their vicinity, too.”

Former veterinary nurse and now Vet Relationship Manager at Southern Cross Pet Insurance, Kerri Murray, said dogs don’t need much chocolate to end up in a life-threatening situation.

She said small dogs weighing 10kg only need to eat 60g of dark chocolate (roughly the size of a chocolate bar) to be at risk of dying from theobromine poisoning, while larger dogs weighing around 30kg need only scoff 160g of dark chocolate (a medium-sized block).

“Labradors are famously food-centric and are harder to deter, but our records show victims ranged from Shih-tzus and Jack Russells through to Staffies, Whippets and Schnauzers. If it smells great to you, it’s delicious (but dangerous) to dogs.

“If you do suspect your dog has eaten chocolate this Easter, make sure to take them to the vet straight away.”  

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, rapid breathing, muscle tension, a rapid heart rate or seizures.

“Your vet will want to know when your dog ate the chocolate, as well as how much and what type, so bring the chocolate wrapper with you, if possible,” Murray said.

Treatment typically involves medication to induce vomiting, while some dogs may also be given activated charcoal to absorb any leftover theobromine in the intestine.

Sultanas are toxic too and they’re often found in hot cross buns

Nikki had no idea sultanas (raisins and currants) are toxic for dogs until the family arrived at the vet with a very under-the-weather Fonzie (a miniature poodle) and put two and two together.

“My mum had come over to cook a meal for us, as we were going through a super busy time. Without anyone realising, Fonzie had helped himself to some sultanas which she was using in a recipe.

“None of us had any idea he’d eaten them, until we saw a poster of what not to eat for dogs at the vet. I’m grateful we got him there in time, for my smart son who pointed out we’d eaten sultanas in our meal, and for our insurance with Southern Cross. I’m so pleased to share our story, so it doesn’t happen to another family pet!

A pooch with a passion for choc

A pint-sized Miniature Long-Haired Dachshund had an outsized love of dairy milk resulting in a very expensive visit to the vet. His owner realised something was amiss when she discovered an empty wrapper at the far end of the garden and a guilty looking pup obviously worse for wear. She headed straight to the emergency vet and her quick action saved the day. But not before she’d incurred more than $1,200 in expenses.

“When he fell ill, I couldn’t be more grateful I had a fantastic vet and Southern Cross Pet Insurance. One of the children had left an Easter treat within easy reach and our pup took the opportunity to nab it. He was so sick, and we thought we would lose him at one point. Our insurance meant he could receive the best possible care without breaking the bank and come home to be with us for years to come.”

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