Families throughout the UK will soon be sharing chocolate eggs and treats to celebrate the end of lent and start of Easter.
However, vets are warning pet owners to keep all chocolate away from their pets after revealing it is the main cause of poisonings in dogs.
Pets getting their paws on chocolate means that Easter is the second busiest time of year for cases of chocolate poisoning, just behind Christmas.
Dr Huw Stacey, director of clinical services at Vets4Pets, said: “We want to make sure that the 8.5 million dogs in the UK are safe from chocolate this Easter.
“Whether it’s caused by owners giving their pet an Easter egg as a present or chocolate is accidentally left within their reach, we see an influx of pets suffering from chocolate poisoning at this time of year.
“Chocolate is particularly toxic to dogs, as it contains caffeine and theobromine, two substances that dogs are incredibly sensitive to.”
Theobromine and caffeine are present in roasted cocoa beans which chocolate is derived from. If ingested by dogs it affects the heart, central nervous system and kidneys.
“Unlike humans, dogs find it difficult to break down and excrete these substances. This means they can easily build-up in the dog’s system and lead to poisoning,” added Dr Stacey.
“The higher the level of cocoa in the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains and the more hazardous the chocolate becomes to pets.
“Therefore dark chocolate is the biggest danger to dogs, and is more likely to cause medical complications than white or regular milk chocolate.
“The level of toxicity also depends on the size of the dog, but for most dogs even small amounts of chocolate can trigger unpleasant reactions.”
The usual signs of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhoea, increased body temperature and heart rate, rapid breathing and can even lead to seizures and cardiac failure.
Dr Stacey added: “In order for owners and their pets to enjoy a happy Easter together, the best option is to keep all chocolate out of their reach and give them an animal-friendly treat instead, like a dental chew or even special dog friendly ‘chocolate’ treats.
“Although there aren’t as many cases of chocolate poisoning for cats, rabbits and rodents, they can all still suffer from health issues after digesting chocolate.
“If you suspect your pet has eaten chocolate, then it is always safest to take them straight to the nearest veterinary practice for a check over.”