19 March 2005

Belfast Telegraph

Don't spoil them to death
Easter egg treats can be fatal for animals.

By Fiona McIlwaine Biggins
19 March 2005

Ulster pet owners are being warned to keep their pets away from chocolate this Easter as it contains ingredients that are highly toxic to dogs and cats and can even cause fatalities.

A leading animal health company is hoping to make pet lovers more aware of the potential dangers of sharing an Easter egg with their furry friends.

It highlights that not only is chocolate high in calories and sugar, which can contribute to the development of obesity and tooth decay but, more worryingly, chocolate is also highly toxic to dogs and cats and if a large quantity is consumed, can even be fatal.

Chocolate, and other products made from cocoa beans, contains a chemical called theobromine which dogs and cats are unable to clear from their bodies, unlike humans.

Theobromine is present in all chocolate, however the content is higher in plain varieties than in white and toxic doses vary according to the size of the animal and the cocoa solid content.

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include excessive drinking, vomiting, diarrhoea, excitability, drooling, slow heart rate and in the later stages, convulsions.

If your pet is displaying any of these symptoms it is important to contact a vet, as if caught early enough it is possible to treat.

Although dogs being poisoned by chocolate are rare, the Veterinary Poisons Information Service reported 135 cases last year; with Christmas and Easter being the most common times.

Sabrina Stroud, product manager at Bayer Animal Health, commented: "Not many people are aware of the dangers of feeding their pet chocolate.

"It is vital that pet owners keep their Easter eggs well away from their beloved friend.

"Some companies make special chocolates which are safe to give to your dog or cat, but it is better for them if they have a healthy treat this Easter instead."

And if you can't resist giving your pet a treat this Easter - that isn't chocolate - then it is also important to make sure that you wash your hands and maintain high standards of hygiene when feeding them.

Many people are unaware that their pet could pass on nasty diseases to humans; including Human Toxocariasis (which can cause blindness) can be contracted by swallowing worm eggs inadvertently picked up from the environment or by letting your pet share food from your plate.

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