Jack Russell-cross Luna narrowly avoided a Christmas catastrophe after wolfing down a family-sized bar of dark chocolate she found in her owner’s bedroom.
Thankfully, she recovered after emergency treatment at PDSA, but the charity’s vets are warning that thousands of dogs are at risk of serious illness or death from chocolate poisoning.
In Luna’s case, she helped herself to the goodies but, according to PDSA research, nearly 200,000 dogs* are regularly fed chocolate as a treat. At Christmas, there is more chocolate around as we indulge so the risks only increase. Advent calendars, boxes of chocolates and gifts under the tree mean more inquisitive pets could get their paws on chocolate without owners’ knowledge.
As well as being toxic, human chocolates are inappropriate for pets due to their high calorie and sugar content, making it bad for their teeth and waistlines.
PDSA vet Emma Tipton explains: “Our research has found that thousands of dogs are fed human chocolate as a ‘treat’, because some owners don’t realise it’s highly poisonous to pets and can be fatal.”
PDSA sees hundreds of chocolate poisoning cases every year and the charity’s vets are on standby for an increase over the festive period.
That’s why PDSA is using Luna’s story to get the message home.
The six-month-old pet ate around three quarters of a family-sized 200g bar of Bournville chocolate that was hidden in an upstairs bedroom.
Owner Gillian Garrity (48) from St Helens, Merseyside, said: “Luna was whimpering and pacing up and down before she suddenly became violently sick.
“My husband spotted the chocolate wrapper and we realised she must have got her paws on it. We know chocolate can be toxic to dogs so he rushed her straight to PDSA.”
Luna was given emergency treatment by PDSA senior vet Matt Forshaw, from PDSA’s Liverpool Huyton Pet Hospital.
He said: “Chocolate is poisonous to dogs as it contains a chemical called theobromine, which can cause severe heart problems.
“To make matters worse, Luna had eaten dark chocolate which contains even higher levels of theobromine. Just a small bar of dark chocolate contains enough of the chemical to kill a small dog like Luna, so she was in grave danger.”
Luna was given medication to make her sick and prevent further absorption of theobromine. She was kept in overnight and given IV fluids to ensure she was well hydrated before being allowed to go home the following day.
Vet Matt added: “Luna is just one of the lucky pets to benefit from PDSA’s A&E service which receives funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
“Thanks to their support we’re also raising awareness of the dangers of human chocolate to pets, and are encouraging owners to avoid feeding such treats and also to keep them out of paws reach.”
Luna’s owner, Gillian, said they were extremely grateful for the care Luna received.
She said: “I can’t thank PDSA enough for everything they did. I’d warn anyone with a pet not to leave chocolate lying around as you could end up losing your dog.”
The effects of chocolate poisoning in dogs usually appear within four hours of eating, and can last as long as 24 hours. Initial signs can include excessive thirst, vomiting, a sore stomach and restlessness. These symptoms can then progress to tremors, an abnormal heart rhythm, raised body temperature and rapid breathing. In severe cases dogs can experience fits and kidney failure, which can be fatal.
PDSA advises owners to store chocolates and other poisonous foods in the same way as medicines when they have pets in their household – safely and securely. And for those who can’t resist giving their four-legged friends a little Christmas treat, a new toy or a nice long walk is a better alternative than treats.