Pet owners need to hide their chocolate stash where their pets can’t reach it and keep their dogs secured on a non-extendable lead while setting up or conducting an Easter egg hunt. Do not be tempted to offer chocolate as a treat or a special occasion present.
“It’s important to keep your pets safe from chocolate over Easter,” says Dr Anne Quain, clinical vet and lecturer in the Sydney School of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney.
“Despite efforts to inform owners about the risks of chocolate ingestion, particularly over the Easter period, we still see plenty of animals - especially dogs - for chocolate ingestion. Even owners who are aware of the risks are not always aware how motivated their animals are to find and eat chocolate.”
“Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, both toxic to pets. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic to pets. A lot of gourmet and vegan chocolates are even more toxic to dogs because of their higher chocolate content,” said Dr Quain.
Dr Quain said dogs are more likely to be victims of chocolate toxicity because “they are great at sniffing chocolate out, and they are highly food motivated.”
Signs of chocolate toxicity range from vomiting and diarrhoea to seizures and collapse. Some animals die from toxicity.
Chocolate should not be given to cats, rabbits, guinea pigs or other household pets, either. “I have seen a rabbit with an intestinal obstruction due to eating a wrapped chocolate.”
Chocolate is high in fat, and fatty foods can trigger gastrointestinal upsets, as well as pancreatitis, in dogs and cats. Signs of pancreatitis include reduced appetite, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea. Pancreatitis causes a spectrum of illness ranging from mild to life-threatening.
“Animals don't show immediate signs of illness after eating chocolate - usually the reason that owners bring them in is because they have read or heard somewhere that chocolate is bad for pets,” said Dr Quain.