The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) has urged pet owners to keep Easter treats well out of reach of their pets’ paws this weekend.
Research has revealed around 468,000 dogs are fed human chocolate by their owners, as they don’t understand it is highly poisonous to pets and can prove fatal.
The extent of the trend is revealed in the PDSA’s annual PAW Report, which surveyed thousands of owners across the UK about their pets’ health and wellbeing.
Owners in the north-east are the biggest culprits, with more than one-fifth (22%) owning up to feeding their dogs the toxic treat, while owners in the south-west are best behaved – only 1% admit to this.
PDSA senior vet, Elaine Pendlebury, said: “It’s very worrying to hear 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.
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.”
Owners who admit to feeding their dogs human chocolate:
North-east – 22%
West midlands – 10%
North-west – 7%
Yorkshire and the Humber – 6%
London – 6%
Scotland – 6%
East of England – 4%
Wales – 4%
South-east – 3%
East midlands – 2%
South-west – 1%