Vets from the British Veterinary Association (BVA) have urged the public to prioritise pet and animal safety this Easter by keeping chocolate and other treats away from them to avoid an emergency vet trip.

The association’s senior vice-president Justine Shotton said it’s vital that families take steps to protect their pets and animals amidst the celebrations.

“Sweet treats and egg hunts are a fun part of Easter for many families, but it’s vital we all take steps to protect our pets and avoid cutting the celebrations short with an emergency trip to the vets,” she said.

“Chocolate eggs and bunnies, and even hot cross buns, may seem harmless but can be life-threatening for some pets, especially dogs, who can get extremely sick even from small amounts.”

Shotton, who is a vet herself, said she has treated “many cases of chocolate ingestion over the holidays” and urges every pet and animal owner to be aware of the effects that the ingestion of certain foods can have on them.

“I’d urge every owner to be aware of the risks of chocolate and raisin or grape poisoning so they can act promptly should the worst happen,” she said.

Chocolate and animals

The BVA said chocolate, especially dark chocolate and cocoa powder, can be dangerous for all animals even in very small quantities.

Dogs are particularly susceptible to poisoning due to a chemical called theobromine, which is found naturally in cocoa beans.

Chocolate toxicity cases often spike over celebratory periods such as Easter and Christmas and, with many practices closed, accessing emergency care can be more difficult for owners, the BVA said.

The BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession surveys from 2016 to 2018 revealed that six in ten vets (60%) had treated cases of chocolate poisoning over Easter each year.

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning in pets, according to the BVA, include:

  • Excessive thirst;
  • Vomiting;
  • Diarrhoea;
  • Restlessness;
  • Hyperactivity;
  • Tremors;
  • Abnormal heart rate;
  • Hyperthermia;
  • Rapid breathing.

The association warned that severe cases can result in fits and heartbeat irregularities, and even coma and death.