The PDSA has issued a warning to pet owners about chocolate poisoning ahead of Christmas.

During the festive period, UK households stock up on lots of foods and most likely have some chocolate hanging around whether that’s in the form of a big tub or an advent calendar.

In the charity’s 48 Pet Hospitals, there’s a 35% increase in a medication used to treat poisonings around Christmas which could be linked to the abundance of dangerous food in the home such as chocolates and mince pies.

It can cost pet owners as much as £300 to treat a dog for chocolate poisoning but the real risk isn’t the cost, it’s the serious risk to their health.  

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PDSA Vet Nurse, Shauna Walsh, said: “Christmas is a fun-filled time for many, and often very chocolate-filled too! We all want to be able to enjoy festivities without any disasters, so it’s really important for pet owners to keep chocolate safely away from curious paws.

“It’s no surprise, over the last 15 years, more chocolate poison incidents are reported in December than any of the other months. Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine, which is perfectly safe for humans, but toxic for dogs, cats and rabbits.

“The seriousness of chocolate poisoning depends on how much chocolate your pet has eaten, how big they are, and the cocoa content of the chocolate – the darker the chocolate the more toxic it is for your pet.”

Walsh added: “The most severe cases of chocolate poisoning in pets can lead to heart failure, coma and even death. Although this is rare this is why it’s really important to keep chocolate safely away from prying paws.

“Especially during celebrations like Christmas when there’s likely more chocolate than usual in the house – with an estimated over 16 million chocolate advent calendars sold in the UK each year.”

Chocolate poisoning symptoms to look out for

If your pet has eaten chocolate and is experiencing poisoning, the symptoms will usually appear within two to four hours but they can take 12 hours.

In severe cases, toxicity can cause the following symptoms:

  • Fast breathing or panting
  • Shaking, trembling and tremors
  • High temperature (fever)
  • Seizures
  • A fast heart rate
  • High blood pressure

It’s also important to note that mild symptoms do exist, these include:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Signs of abdominal discomfort/pain

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What to do if you think your pet could have eaten chocolate

If you think your pet may have ingested some chocolate, don’t wait for any symptoms to appear.

Instead, keep the packaging and call your vet immediately.

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The PDSA warns that thousands of people could suffer a devastating loss because they can’t afford their pet’s veterinary treatment.

However, lives can be saved this Christmas by knowing what is dangerous for our pets.