Easter is here and no doubt my children will be eating a few yummy chocolate eggs. There will however be NO Easter eggs for my dogs, including Charlie the Cavalier, as chocolate is a life threatening toxin to pets. Chocolate poisoning is caused by the methylxanthine alkaloids in chocolate (and coffee and tea) and is common in dogs, particularly younger dogs as they are more likely to ingest larger amounts. The toxin causes a rapid and weak heartbeat, constricted blood vessels and severe neurological signs such as tremors and seizures. Death from heart failure can result within hours of ingestion.

All types of chocolate bars, Easter eggs, cooking chocolate and sweets can cause poisoning with darker chocolate being the most toxic. Vomiting and diarrhoea may occur 2 to 4 hours after intake, and chocolate in the vomit may be obvious. There is no antidote for chocolate poisoning so supportive veterinary care is required urgently. Your veterinarian may induce vomiting if the chocolate was recently consumed or may have to pump the stomach clear of chocolate and prevent any drug remaining from being absorbed. In dogs with advanced signs, medications are needed to control the seizures and to correct the rapid and weak heartbeat in order to prevent heart failure. Prognosis is good if the chocolate is removed within 2 to 4 hours of ingestion but is guarded in animals with advanced signs. So make sure your dog and cat don’t join in on the Easter Egg Hunt this year – give them a nice raw bone instead!