The Dangers of Chocolate for Pets During Christmas – PDSA Issues Warning

With the festive season about to be in full swing, vet charity PDSA has issued a chocolate warning for all pet owners before the nation opens door number one on their choc-stocked advent calendars.

PDSA Vet Nurse, Shauna Walsh, said “Christmas is a fun-filled time for many, and often very chocolate-filled too! We all want to be able to enjoy festivities without any disasters, so it’s really important for pet owners to keep chocolate safely away from curious paws.

“It’s no surprise, over the last 15 years, more chocolate poison incidents are reported in December than any of the other months*. Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine, which is perfectly safe for humans, but toxic for dogs, cats and rabbits.

“The seriousness of chocolate poisoning depends on how much chocolate your pet has eaten, how big they are, and the cocoa content of the chocolate – the darker the chocolate the more toxic it is for your pet.”

In PDSA’s 48 Pet Hospitals the charity sees a 35% increase in a medication used to treat poisonings around Christmas, which could be linked to the abundance of dangerous food in the home such as chocolates and mince pies.

It can cost as much as £300 to treat a dog for chocolate poisoning, but the real risk isn’t the cost, it’s the serious risk to their health.

“The most severe cases of chocolate poisoning in pets can lead to heart failure, coma and even death. Although this is rare this is why it’s really important to keep chocolate safely away from prying paws. Especially during celebrations like Christmas when there’s likely more chocolate than usual in the house – with an estimated over 16 million chocolate advent calendars sold in the UK each year**.”

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning usually appear within two to four hours, but can take up to 12 hours. In severe cases, toxicity can cause:

  • Fast breathing or panting
  • Shaking, trembling and tremors
  • High temperature (fever)
  • Seizures
  • A fast heart rate
  • High blood pressure

It’s also important to be aware of mild symptoms too:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Signs of abdominal discomfort/pain

If you think your pet could have ingested some chocolate, don’t wait for chocolate poisoning symptoms to appear, keep the packaging and call your vet immediately.

Thousands of people could suffer a devastating loss because they can’t afford their pets veterinary treatment, together this Christmas we can save pets lives. For more information on how you can help PDSA keep people and pets together this visit:

*Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) data, 2023

**Business Waste,

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