27 March 2024

RSPCA WA is urging pet owners to keep a close eye on their animals around chocolate this Easter following a shocking rise in calls to the Animal Poisons Helpline last year.

Over a 14-day period last Easter, the helpline recorded a 136 per cent increase in calls regarding pets ingesting chocolate, compared the rest of the year.

Not unexpectedly, 91.5 per cent of these cases involved dogs, followed by cats at 4.7 per cent, then rabbits at 2.2 per cent, birds at 1.2 per cent and finally ferrets at 0.3 per cent. Excluding crossbreeds, Labrador retrievers were the most common dog breed involved.

RSPCA WA Lead Veterinarian Mairi Joyce said even a small amount of chocolate could have heartbreaking consequences for pets and owners.

“Just 50 grams of milk chocolate can be enough to poison a small dog,” she said.

“Darker chocolate contains more cocoa, so the same amount will be even more toxic. And some sugar-free chocolates are artificially sweetened with xylitol, an ingredient which can lead to liver failure in dogs.

“Signs of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhoea, increased thirst, excessive urination and hyperactivity, while more serious symptoms are tremors, seizures and even death.”

But Dr Joyce said chocolate wasn’t the only food around at Easter that was dangerous to pets.

“Hot cross buns, onions and fatty barbeque leftovers can cause major implications for your pet’s health,” she said.

“Cooked bones are brittle and small shards can get stuck in your animal’s throat or pierce the stomach lining. Surgery to remove an internal blockage is expensive and will easily creep into the thousands.

“If in doubt as to whether your pet has eaten something they shouldn’t, always contact your vet straight away for advice. It’s much better to be safe than sorry.”