Fulham vet Sarah Ramsey reminds us why it’s important to keep those chocolate treats out of reach from your inquisitive pet, while we provide you with pet-friendly alternative treats…
With Easter around the corner it is likely that there will be a few Easter eggs lying around the house to tempt our pets. This article is a gentle reminder of the dangers that chocolate poisoning has to our pets, the severity of which is influenced by how much chocolate is eaten and what type it is (milk/dark).
Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine which is similar to caffeine. Theobromine initially causes vomiting and diarrhoea which can lead to dehydration. It also stimulates the heart and central nervous system leading to hyperactivity, high heart rate, panting, sometimes muscle spasms and seizures followed by coma and death.
The amount of theobromine in chocolate depends on the type of chocolate. Cooking chocolate and good quality dark chocolate contain between 15-20 mg/gram whereas popular milk chocolate only contains about 1.5 mg/gm. Toxic doses are reported at about 100 mg/kg body weight with fatalities at around 200 mg/kg. Therefore a small Chihuahua only weighing a couple of kilograms would have to eat less than 2 oz (50g) of good chocolate to potentially show signs of poisoning. Even a dog the size of a Labrador could die if it ate about two or three 200g bars of good quality or cooking chocolate.
If you think your pet may have eaten some chocolate contact your vet immediately and be prepared to tell them when you think it was eaten, what type of chocolate it was and how much was eaten.
One of the problems with chocolate poisoning is that signs are often delayed for more than 12 hours. Another problem is that once absorbed theobromine can sometimes remain active in the body for over 24 hours without being excreted. Death following ingestion of fatal doses typically occurs about 24 hours afterwards.
What is the treatment?
This depends on the clinical signs and the amount of chocolate that may have been ingested. If the dog is presented early enough, a drug to make the dog sick may be all that is necessary. If there is doubt, activated charcoal will be administered which limits the absorption of the theobromine from the gut. The charcoal may be repeated every four hours for 24-36 hours to prevent further absorption. In addition the dog would be admitted and given intravenous fluid therapy for at least 24 hours. Even if showing no signs it is essential that the dog is kept under close observation for at least 24 hours to check for any heart abnormality.
So please don’t give any Easter eggs to your pet –and keep yours hidden away from inquisitive paws!
Best wishes for a safe and Happy Easter!
Here are a few recipes to make Easter treats so that your canine companion doesn’t feel left out this Bank Holiday…
Milk Bone Biscuits
- Three quarters of a cup of hot water
- Third of a cup margarine
- Half cup of powdered milk
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 egg, beaten
- 3 cups of whole wheat flour
In a large bowl, pour hot water over the margarine. Stir in the powdered milk, salt and egg. Add flour, half cup at a time. Knead for a few minutes to form a stiff dough. Pat or roll to half an inch thickness. Cut into shapes with a cookie cutter. Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit / 165 degrees Celsius for 40 minutes.
- 3 cups water
- 2 carrots, shredded
- 1 egg
- Half tsp vanilla essence
- 2 tbsp honey or agave syrup
- 2 ripe bananas, mashed
- 4 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
In a large mixing bowl, blend the water, egg, carrots, vanilla and honey. Add the mashed banana. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, nutmeg and cinnamon. Combine flour mixture and mix thoroughly. Fill each cupcake case about three quarters full. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit / 175 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes. ‘Ice’ with low fat cream cheese.
Tuna & Cheddar Biscuits – for those pups (& humans) who fancy something savoury
- Set oven to 180 degrees
- 6oz plain wholemeal flour
- 2oz porridge oats
- 3oz butter
- Tablespoon olive oil
- Handful of chopped fresh parsley
- Two cans of tuna fish, drained
- 1 free range egg (large)
- Strong grated cheese
Mix all ingredients together as if making a pastry, adding some water if the mixture is too dry. Roll out to a depth of one centimetre, then use a small biscuit cutter. Prick the biscuits gently with a fork, place carefully on the baking sheets and bake for around 25 minutes. Move somewhere safe to cool. Freeze any surplus biscuits – or simply take with you on dog walks and bask in the popularity.