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Health: Vets reveal why chocolate is so harmful for dogs ahead of Easter

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Australian veterinarians have given their tips and tricks to avoid a trip to the vet this Easter long weekend - and revealed why chocolate is so toxic to dogs.

Regional director of Sydney Animal Hospitals Dr. Tim Montgomery and Mars Petcare veterinarian Dr. Fiona Patterson have offered their advice for keeping your pet safe this Easter long weekend.

The animal doctors said to extra vigilant during Easter egg hunts and to ensure chocolate is always kept well out of dog's reach.

While most pet owners know chocolate is harmful for dogs, Dr. Montgomery told FEMAIL there are still many incidences of toxicity in dogs over the Easter long weekend each year.

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Dr Patterson said signs from vomiting and diarrhoea to seizures can point to potential chocolate poisoning and to call the vey immediately if you suspect your dog got their nose into your Easter treats.

Ahead of the Easter period, two Australian veterinarians have revealed why chocolate is so harmful for dogs and offered their advice for avoiding a trip to the vet on your long weekend © Provided by Daily Mail Ahead of the Easter period, two Australian veterinarians have revealed why chocolate is so harmful for dogs and offered their advice for avoiding a trip to the vet on your long weekend

Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs

Vomiting

Diarrhoea

Increased thirst

Excessive urination

Racing heat rate

In severe cases:

Muscle tremors

Seizures

Heart failure

Source: Sydney Animal Hospitals

Make sure your Easter egg hunt is pet friendly

If you're planning an Easter egg hunt this weekend Dr. Patterson said it's important to ensure dogs aren't around or roaming free.

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'Consider placing your pup in a room or section of the house where they can comfortably stay put while chocolate is hidden around the house,' she said.

Both vets say to count all the eggs before you've hidden them and after the hunt to make sure there are none left in the yard or around the house for your dog to sniff out and eat.

Dr Patterson also recommended ensuring chocolate is kept well out of your pet's reach at all times.

'Make sure all chocolate is unreachable when your dog is in the house and off the leash,' she said.

'I recommend placing chocolate in the cupboard rather than on the bench, and keep an eye on any Easter eggs on tables and surfaces – your pup may jump up and grab them.'

Why is chocolate so dangerous for dogs?

'The active ingredient we're concerned about in chocolate is theobromine which is in the same family as caffeine which can lead to excitation and that's most dangerous for dog's hearts and brains,' Dr. Montgomery explained.

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Dr. Montgomery said people can also experience chocolate toxicity but are much less sensitive to theobromine and would need to consume several kilos of dark chocolate to experience the same signs as dogs.

'It's partly due to dog's small size and partly their higher sensitivity - a 5kg dog would only need to have about 25grams of dark chocolate to potentially be in danger,' he said.

Make sure to count all the eggs before you've hidden them and after the hunt to make sure there are none left in the yard or around the house for your dog to sniff out and eat © Provided by Daily Mail Make sure to count all the eggs before you've hidden them and after the hunt to make sure there are none left in the yard or around the house for your dog to sniff out and eat

Dr Patterson said darker, more bitter chocolate poses the greatest risk for dogs due to their higher theobromine content.

'Milk and dark chocolates can cause more harm than white chocolate – however, it’s important to ensure your dog doesn’t ingest any kind and to monitor for symptoms if it does happen,' she said.

'Even if the amount ingested is not enough to cause toxicity, dogs can still become unwell from the fat and sugar content of chocolate.'

Dr. Fiona Patterson said symptoms include vomiting and diarrhoea, restlessness, panting, and increased thirst and urination can suggest your pet is experiencing chocolate toxicosis © Provided by Daily Mail Dr. Fiona Patterson said symptoms include vomiting and diarrhoea, restlessness, panting, and increased thirst and urination can suggest your pet is experiencing chocolate toxicosis

What are the signs of chocolate poisoning?

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If you suspect your dog may have eaten chocolate but aren't certain, Dr. Montgomery and Dr. Patterson say there are symptoms you should look out for that indicate poisoning.

Signs of chocolate contamination can appear anytime between thirty minutes to four hours and can vary in severity.

'By the time they start showing signs it’s already getting a bit dangerous,' Dr. Montgomery said.

'The first sign you’re likely to notice is hyperactivity and if left untreated that can progress to abnormal heart rhythms, seizures or death in severe cases.'

Dr. Patterson said milder symptoms include vomiting and diarrhoea and things like restlessness, panting, and increased thirst and urination can suggest your pet is experiencing chocolate toxicosis and mustn't be ignored.

'If your pet is exhibiting symptoms such as stiffness, muscle tremors or seizures this may be an indication of severe poisoning and warrants an immediate visit to the vet,' she said.

If you know or suspect your dog has consumed chocolate, Dr. Patterson said not to delay and call the vet straight away to determine whether they need to be brought into hospital © Provided by Daily Mail If you know or suspect your dog has consumed chocolate, Dr. Patterson said not to delay and call the vet straight away to determine whether they need to be brought into hospital

It's not just chocolate: Other foods that can land you at the vet this Easter

1. Fatty meats: The fatty offcuts from your barbecue steak as well as ham and sausages contain high amounts of fat that your cat or dog may not be able to stomach all in one go.

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'Any foods that are very high in fat can cause stomach upsets and in severe cases pancreatitis,' Dr. Montgomery told FEMAIL.

While some meat won't do a lot of harm to your pet, Dr. Montgomery said to be careful of the fatty foods like ham, sausages, meat offcuts and even vegetables that have been covered in olive oil.

He also said not to feed your pet meat on bones as there is a risk of the bones getting lodged in their throat or causing obstructions.

2. Grapes, sultanas and raisins: Dr. Montgomery said the skin on grapes, raisins and sultanas, like those in hot cross buns, is extremely harmful for dogs so be very careful not to feed your pets anything with the fruit.

'We don't fully understand it and it's not a certainty that all animal that eat grapes get sick but the ones that do can die so it's important to take it seriously,' he said.

'You may not notice signs of intoxication until days later when it's already too late,' he said.

If you suspect your dog has eaten raisins or grapes take them to your closest vet immediately.

3.  Macadamia nuts: 'This is one that a lot of people don't know about but they can cause very serious illness as well,' Dr. Montgomery said.

Macadamias they can be highly poisonous to dogs causing a range of symptoms like vomiting, an inability to walk, weakness or, in extreme cases, paralysis.

4.  Garlic and onions: Garlic and onions are used in many barbecues or dinner party dishes but they contain chemicals that are toxic to cats and dogs.

Dr Montgomery says in fact, it's best to keep all foods in the allium vegetable family away from your furry friends as they cause damage to red blood cells which can lead to anaemia.

What to do if your dog eats chocolate

If you know or suspect your dog has consumed chocolate, Dr. Patterson said not to delay and call the vet straight away to determine whether they need to be brought into hospital.

If your dog has vomited and you see traces of chocolate in what they've eaten, Dr. Montgomery said a vet visit is still important as it only empties the stomach of 50-60 per cent of its contents.

'I had this just last night, a dog came in after they had vomited up chocolate at home then when they came in to the vet, they brought up even more,' he said.

'It's for this reason that we recommend following this procedure up with activated charcoal to limit the absorption of the chocolate, as well as monitoring of the pet in hospital in case their condition worsens.'

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