Vets are warning pet owners to keep all chocolate away from their pets this Easter, after revealing it is the main cause of poisonings in dogs.
Pets getting their paws on chocolate means that Easter is the second busiest time of year for cases of chocolate-related poisoning, just behind Christmas.
But it’s not just the chocolate that can make dogs ill, as one dog owner found out recently.
Rebecca Harding feared the worst after her pet was found to have a lump in his stomach, following the death of the dog’s sister from cancer in 2017.
Chester, an eight-year-old Cocker Spaniel, had been unwell for weeks, giving vets serious concerns about the cause, before a scan finally revealed the problem.
After undergoing an operation to investigate at Vets4Pets, Chester had a surprise in store for owner Rebecca Harding.
His vet and owner of the Vets4Pets practice, Jenny Millington, revealed the lump was in fact the toy package from a Kinder Surprise Egg, still whole, which she presented to a relieved Rebecca.
Chester had found the chocolate egg and devoured the lot.
Dr Huw Stacey, director of clinical services at Vets4Pets, said: “We want to make sure that the 8.5 million dogs in the UK are safe from chocolate this Easter.
“Whether it’s caused by owners giving their pet an Easter egg as a present or, as in Chester’s case, the chocolate is accidentally left within their reach, we see an influx of pets suffering from chocolate poisoning at this time of year.
“Chocolate is particularly toxic to dogs, as it contains caffeine and theobromine, two substances that dogs are incredibly sensitive to.”
Rebecca said: “As a family we were so worried about Chester, particularly as we had lost his sister last year.
“We’ve had him since he was a puppy and he’s part of the family, so losing him would have been devastating.
“After the operation, I was expecting the worst, but when Jenny told me it was a Kinder Surprise toy, and I was speechless.
“My children hadn’t eaten Kinder Surprise eggs for years, but then I remembered my eldest had bought one about six weeks before his operation.
“Chester, like most spaniels, is a very inquisitive dog, so he must have sniffed it out from somewhere and eaten it while no one was around.”
Following the operation, Chester spent a couple of days in the recovering at Vets4Pets, before being allowed home.
The Cocker Spaniel then had two weeks recuperating at home, helped by the company of Rebecca’s two other dogs – a pair of Coton de Tulears.
Owner and veterinary surgeon at Vets4Pets, Jenny, said: “We’ve known Chester and Rebecca for many years, so it was worrying to see him so unwell, and the scan showing the obstruction was obviously a concern.
“During the operation it was quite a surprise for the surgical team to see the reason for his illness, but also a relief knowing the long-term prospects for him were better than previously thought.
“It must have been really uncomfortable for him and, of course, the implications for Chester could have been really serious, if we’d not operated when we had done.
“It took just over an hour to remove the ‘tumour’ and it was amazing to see it intact after potentially weeks inside Chester.
“We’ve helped a number of dogs after they have swallowed something they shouldn’t have, but this was the first Kinder Surprise toy we’ve found.”
The toy was not the first non-food item that Chester has eaten though.
Rebecca added: “He’s previously munched on a large foam letter A, that my children used to have in the bath, but he managed to get rid of that himself.
“The Kinder Surprise toy was a different story and we can’t thank Jenny and her team enough for helping Chester, they were all brilliant.
“Luckily, he’s made a full recovery, but the incident has not dented his inquisitive nature and he’s still always on the hunt for new things to try and eat!”
Theobromine and caffeine are present in roasted cocoa beans which chocolate is derived from. If ingested by dogs, it affects the heart, central nervous system and kidneys.
“Unlike humans, dogs find it difficult to break down and excrete these substances. This means they can easily build-up in the dog’s system and lead to poisoning,” added Dr Stacey.
“The higher the level of cocoa in the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains and the more hazardous the chocolate becomes to pets.
“Therefore, dark chocolate is the biggest danger to dogs, and is more likely to cause medical complications than white or regular milk chocolate.
“The level of toxicity also depends on the size of the dog, but for most dogs even small amounts of chocolate can trigger unpleasant reactions.”
The usual signs of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhoea, increased body temperature and heart rate, rapid breathing and can even lead to seizures and cardiac failure.
Dr Stacey added: “In order for owners and their pets to enjoy a happy Easter together, the best option is to keep all chocolate out of their reach and give them an animal-friendly treat instead, like a dental chew or even special dog friendly ‘chocolate’ treats.
“Although there aren’t as many cases of chocolate poisoning for cats, rabbits and rodents, they can all still suffer from health issues after digesting chocolate.
“If you suspect your pet has eaten chocolate, then it is always safest to take them straight to the nearest veterinary practice for a check over.”