Southern Cross Pet Insurance (SCPI) is reminding pet owners who may have bought Easter chocolate ahead of the lockdown to keep it stored out of reach because of its toxicity to dogs.
Chocolate is poisonous because it contains theobromine and caffeine. Darker, purer chocolate varieties carry even more of a risk because they contain higher levels of theobromine.
In 2019, SCPI paid out $56,414 in claims for 181 dogs insured on PetCare policies for treatment related to chocolate poisoning. Of these, the most chocolate-loving breeds were Schnauzers, Cavoodles and Beagles.
SCPI received a number of claims for chocolate toxicity during the Easter period last year including a Boxer which found its owners’ Easter stash and devoured five chocolate Kiwis plus a Japanese Spitz and a Schnauzer that each ate a chocolate bunny.
The most expensive claim paid out by SCPI in 2019 for treatment related to chocolate poisoning was almost $1500 for a Beagle who couldn’t resist a chocolate feast.
Chocolate is also poisonous to cats but they are less likely to be tempted because cats don’t have the ability to taste sweetness. Just two cat owners made a claim for chocolate poisoning last year.
Southern Cross Pet Insurance General Manager Anthony McPhail said it’s even more important to keep chocolate out of reach this Easter as people will be spending most of the public holiday at home, leaving more opportunities to accidentally leave it at paws’ reach.
“We know dogs love to receive treats but we urge pet owners to be careful about where their chocolate is kept. Luckily your cat or dog is one member of the family you don’t have to share your chocolate with.
“If families have an Easter egg hunt planned in their backyard as a fun outdoor activity during the lockdown, I would recommend making a note of each hiding spot so pets don’t discover any chocolate later that the kids may have missed.
“Raisins, currants and sultanas are also poisonous to dogs so be careful if you see them eying up your hot cross bun as it will often have these ingredients,” said McPhail.
Pet owners are reminded that veterinary and animal health/welfare services are considered essential services during the lockdown so if pets consume any chocolate during this period,
they can still be treated. SCPI’s contact centre is also available to answer questions and process claims.
Top Easter tips for pet owners
• Keep chocolate in high cupboards or locked away.
• A small dog weighing 10kg would only need to eat 60 grams of dark chocolate (roughly the size of a chocolate bar) to be at risk of dying from theobromine poisoning. For larger dogs weighing around 30 kilos, such as a Labrador, it would only take about 160g of dark chocolate (a medium-sized chocolate block).
• Take your dog straight to the vet if you suspect they have eaten chocolate. Your vet will want to know how much chocolate your dog may have eaten, the type of chocolate (bring the wrapper, if possible) and when they ate it. Symptoms may include vomiting, rapid breathing, muscle tension, rapid heart rate or seizures.
• The vet will typically give your dog medication to make it dog vomit and may wash out their stomach by feeding them activated charcoal. This will absorb any leftover theobromine in the intestine.