Newly released statistics show chocolate poisoning in dogs doubles during the Easter period, as one Maltese owner warns others of the dangers following near-death experience.
New data released ahead of Easter by The Kennel Club shows that cases of dog chocolate poisoning surge in April. The data, collated and analysed by Agria Pet Insurance, The Kennel Club’s insurance partner, indicates that claims volume for chocolate poisoning in dogs during the Easter period in 2022 (April) was approximately 123% higher than every other time of year, excluding December.
This alarming statistic has led The Kennel Club to warn owners to be vigilant about Easter dangers for four-legged friends. With additional research carried out by the organisation revealing that two in five (40%) dog owners are worried about how they will care for their dog if the cost of living continues to rise, experts are concerned that, without these preventative measures in place, dog owners are at risk of further unnecessary financial burden, such as costly emergency veterinary treatment, on top of the emotional distress that chocolate poisoning can bring to both dog and owner.
“Easter can be an exciting time for the whole family, but amidst the celebrations, owners should remember to keep a careful eye on their pets when there is so much chocolate in the household,” commented Bill Lambert, dog health expert at The Kennel Club. “A dog’s acute sense of smell means they can sniff out even the best hidden treats, as these worrying statistics show, so it’s vitally important that owners remain vigilant.
“Of course, a lot of families are facing uncertainty and stress owing to the cost-of-living crisis and may not be able to cope with any additional or unexpected veterinary costs. Not only can chocolate poisoning be extremely expensive, it is also incredibly upsetting for dogs and their owners. However, it can also be avoided as long as owners are vigilant and take the necessary precautions.”
Last Easter, Hector, a seven-year-old Maltese, discovered two bags of foil covered chocolate shapes in the back of a closed cupboard, wrapped in a bag. By the time his owner found him, Hector had eaten most of the contents.
Knowing the dangers of chocolate, Hector’s owner rushed him straight to the vet, where he was given charcoal to make him vomit to bring up as much of the chocolate as possible, before being transferred to an emergency vet where he stayed overnight for monitoring. However, the following day his blood tests showed he was still significantly affected by poisoning from the chocolate, and due to his small size and the amount he’d consumed, the outlook was not looking good.
Thankfully, after a transfer to a specialist veterinary hospital, and a further seven days receiving specialist veterinary care, Hector was well enough to go home. Hector’s owner says, “Knowing the dangers of chocolate to dogs, I am always very careful to keep it away. I had no idea that Hector’s determination would see him open a cupboard and find wrapped chocolate from within a bag. The week that followed was awful as we felt we were very close to losing Hector. I’m so grateful for the treatment Hector received at the specialist vet, and the fact that he was covered by insurance. He wouldn’t be with us now if it wasn’t for those things.’
Hector is now fully recovered, but will remain on a restricted diet of specialist food for life following the incident, with the total cost of his veterinary treatment reaching over £5,000.
Robin Hargreaves, Senior Veterinary Advisor for Agria Pet Insurance, commented: “We see an increase in cases of poisoning from chocolate over Easter every year as, even when it’s hidden, it can be all too easy for dogs to get hold of – especially the determined ones.
“Sadly, while this should be an enjoyable time of year, there is a real danger with chocolate poisoning, and treatment required for cases can be very costly, not to mention a stressful experience. It is so important to be extremely vigilant, so please keep chocolate, or anything toxic to your pets, far from reach.”
To help dogs and their owners navigate the Easter holidays safely, and ensure it’s an enjoyable experience for all, The Kennel Club has shared the following tips:
For many households, Easter brings a glut of chocolate into the household and every year, thousands of dogs are rushed for emergency veterinary treatment due to consuming it, as it’s toxic for canines. A dog's acute sense of smell means they can all too easily sniff out, and unintentionally get their paws on, poisonous food. If you suspect your dog has eaten some chocolate, even a small amount, seek veterinary advice immediately.
Owners should be vigilant to any chocolate brought into the house and ensure any is placed safely out of reach – high up and behind closed cupboard doors. For those taking part in a chocolate egg hunt, it is important that dogs are kept away during this activity and it’s worth keep track of how many chocolates are hidden, and subsequently making sure they are all found before welcoming a dog back to the area.
It's not just chocolate at this time of year that poses a risk to dogs. Owners should also keep an eye on other traditional treats, such as hot cross buns and Simnel cake, which commonly contain grapes, raisins, currants and sultanas, all of which are highly toxic to dogs, and be wary of a dog eating any food or leftovers from an Easter Sunday roast, as much of it will be too salty or too fatty for them.
To safely involve your dog in the festivities, The Kennel Club has a range of dog-friendly recipes for Easter treats: thekennelclub.org.uk/easterrecipes
Spring has sprung
Several common flowers, including daffodils, tulips and spring crocuses can be poisonous to dogs, so owners should be alert on walks and in the garden, especially if bulbs were planted earlier in the year.
As well as flora, there are a number of fauna to also be aware of. Snails, toads, ticks and adders are more common in spring and are potential health hazards to dogs as they can cause infections, bites or stings. During and after spending time outside, owners should be vigilant in checking a dog’s fur for ticks. To find out more about how to identify them, prevent or remove them, contact your vet for further advice.
Celebrations, particularly around Easter, often bring more unfamiliar noises, smells and new activities for four-legged friends, which might become overwhelming.
To avoid any seasonal stress, continue their usual walking and eating routine. When welcoming more people, make sure your pup still has their usual personal space so they can retreat to their bed for some chill time as and when they need it.
You can read more about how to get your dog well prepared, and follow advice on socialising at home via The Kennel Club’s online training hub: thekennelclub.org.uk/training
The warmer weather, and the many upcoming long bank holiday weekends can offer the opportunity for going further afield for dog walks and the exploration of new areas. It is important before embarking on a new route to understand how to be responsible for you and your dog when walking in the countryside, and researching the area that you are visiting. Easter and spring bring an abundance of wildlife and livestock to the countryside, especially during lambing season. Whenever you are in proximity of livestock or cattle you must have your dog on a lead, under control and keep your dog from approaching or chasing any livestock or wildlife.
Ensure to check the latest local restrictions on dog walking areas and be aware that sometimes dogs are banned from areas such as beaches or fields during certain months, for everyone’s safety.
The Kennel Club has more advice on keeping your dog safe during spring, including health advice and training tips, available at: thekennelclub.org.uk/pawbypaw.