Dogs and cats can get seriously ill and even die if they consume chocolate and here is why:

Chocolate contains ingredients that are toxic for our companion animals and those are caffeine, theobromine and xylitol (this is a sweetener often used, however not always).

This is why it really is important to keep your companion animals away from the garden if you’re going to hide Easter eggs there.

My top tip:

Count the number of Easter eggs you will be hiding for your kids, draw a little map of where in your garden you hide them or even take photos on your phone. Then when your kids are done searching, count the eggs to make sure all are found before letting your beloved companion animals back in the garden.

The symptoms to watch out for are vomiting, diarrhoea, higher body temperature, increased heart rate, staggering, tremors and acute weakness.

What to do if you suspect your companion animal has eaten chocolate:

Try to establish how much has been eaten and the brand/type of chocolate, so wrappers are crucial at this point, then phone your vet immediately. The darker the chocolate, the higher the theobromine content and so this is very useful information for your vet.

Why caffeine, theobromine and xylitol is toxic for animals:

Xylitol acts quicker than the other two toxic ingredients and your companion animal could be comatose within 15-20 minutes after eating it. This is because the pancreas confuses it with real sugar, therefore releasing more insulin. This in turn removes the real sugar from the body, causing blood sugar levels to drop rapidly (this is called hypoglycemia). Xylitol also causes liver failure in dogs (renal failure), however not much seems to be know about how. Xylitol is also commonly found in chewing gum / bubble gum, many sweets and candy so keep all your sweet treats to yourself!

Caffeine and theobromine both stimulate the central nervous system and heart muscle, but relax the smooth muscles used for breathing. This means that it interferes with the heart pumping blood and the animal’s breathing. Dogs especially metabolize theobromine much slower than humans so it stays in their systems much longer (perhaps the same for cats, but as they are generally picky eaters, there is less information available). Death from respiratory and/or cardiac failure can occur within several days of consuming chocolate.

So, this is definitely an opportunity not to feel selfish and just have all the chocolate and Easter eggs to yourself as you’ll be keeping your companion animal safe! Offer a hard boiled egg or sprats (little dried fish) instead if you are after a nutritious and safe treat for them

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