It's a time of year when chocolate treats like Easter eggs are in abundance, but did you know that even giving just a small amount to your pets could prove fatal?
Our latest research shows that nearly half a million dogs are still being fed human chocolate, which is really worrying because even a few squares of dark chocolate is enough to potentially fatally poison a small dog such as a Yorkshire Terrier.
While many people will be preparing to enjoy the long bank holiday weekend, our vets are busy preparing for the annual spike in admissions for chocolate poisoning cases that we always see at this time of year.
Thanks to funding support from players of People's Postcode Lottery, we're educating more pet owners than ever about the dangers of chocolate poisoning this year. We're also alerting people about the risks of other popular Easter goodies such as raisins which are in hot cross buns, peanuts and coffee beans which can be potentially lethal to pets due to the chemicals they contain.
Every year pets require emergency treatment after falling victim to the harmful effects of theobromine - an ingredient in human chocolate. The high sugar content of chocolate is no good for our pets' waistlines or teeth either, contributing to obesity and dental disease.
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, diarrhoea, a tender tummy 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 or even death.
High quality dark chocolates, which often contain the largest cocoa solids content, pose the biggest risk to dogs.
An example of how serious chocolate poisoning can be for dogs is the case of Jessie the Beagle puppy, who became very poorly after gobbling up three chocolate Easter eggs.
Jessie the Beagle needed emergency treatment for chocolate poisoning
Her owner Justine came home to find Jessie had opened her daughter's bedroom door, climbed onto a desk and wolfed down the chocolate treats. Jessie appeared very quiet and subdued and her tummy looked swollen but Justine did exactly the right thing and rushed her straight to our pet hospital.
We treated Jessie as an emergency case and we gave her medication to make her sick and then charcoal to prevent any further absorption of the toxins and thankfully she made a full recovery. However, not every case ends so well and that's why we're desperate to get the message out there that human chocolate is an absolute no-no for dogs.
I would advise that everyone should store chocolates in the same way as medicines when you've got pets in the house- safely and securely. If you can't resist giving them a little Easter treat, make sure it is something pet-friendly, suitable and safe. A game with a new toy or a nice long walk is a very good alternative - it might help you burn off any Easter indulgences as well.
Have a great Easter!