London: If you have been regularly feeding your dog with chocolates all through these days, you may now have to think twice. According to scientists, dogs are four times more likely to fall ill from eating chocolate during the holiday season, particularly Christmas. That’s because chocolate becomes more accessible within the home at this time of the year.
In a study published in the journal Vet Record, researchers at the University of Liverpool say dog owners need to be aware of the heightened risk, particularly in the run-up to Christmas – and to a lesser extent Easter. Read:
Chocolate contains theobromine (a stimulant similar to caffeine) that can cause vomiting, increased heart rate, agitation and seizure in dogs, and in the most severe cases death.
According to the researchers, who found that the risk of chocolate poisoning in dogs significantly increases during Christmas, while most people know that allowing pooches to much on festive treats can be harmful, they may not know why.
In the study, the researchers used electronic health records from veterinary practices to analyse cases of chocolate ingestion in dogs.
The findings reveal significant seasonal peaks of chocolate ingestion cases across the year, most notably at Christmas and to a lesser extent at Easter – as chocolate becomes more accessible within the home.
In most cases, the amount of chocolate consumed was quite small, with common festive culprits including selection boxes, chocolate cake, liqueurs, chocolate Santas and advent calendars.
“Dogs love a chocolate treat and at Christmas, there are plenty about. Sadly dogs cant eat chocolate safely so many of them end up making an unplanned visit to the vet, which can disrupt the celebrations,” said Peter-John M Noble, a veterinary researcher who led the study.
“People should keep festive chocolates away from pets. If chocolate is consumed, owners should talk to their vet as soon as possible, and ideally be prepared to quantify the amount and type of chocolate consumed,” Noble said.
“Information on the chocolate packaging may help the vet take the best action. While many cases of chocolate-eating are not at toxic levels, where they are, it is better to see the vet quickly,” he said.
To come to this conclusion, the researchers analysed 386 cases of chocolate ingestion in dogs from 229 UK veterinary practices between 2013 and 2017.
Their findings revealed some differences in the seasonal pattern of UK cases compared to other countries. For instance, peaks in similar cases around Valentines Day and Halloween that have previously been reported in the US and Germany were not found in the UK, which the researchers suggest could be due to different festival priorities.
The study also found that chocolate ingestion was significantly less common in older dogs and that no specific breed is more at risk than others.
“Big data is allowing us to perform wide-scale studies of issues like chocolate exposure. This will help us to understand the influence of age, breed, season and geography on a wide range of different problems,” said Noble.