One of the most important rules for pet owners is keeping chocolate away from dogs. Chocolate has long been known to be toxic to dogs, causing vomiting, increased heart rate, seizures, and even death.
The reason chocolate is so harmful to dogs is that it contains theobromine, a caffeine-like substance that is easily metabolized by humans but not dogs.
Different types of chocolate have varying quantities of theobromine, and typically the darker and less refined the cocoa, the more toxic the product. Baking chocolate is the worst kind of chocolate for dogs to consume.
A new study, conducted by researchers from the University of Liverpool, found that the holidays cause an increased risk of chocolate poisoning in dogs because there’s typically much more chocolate left out in the house.
This is the first study to analyze veterinary records to find patterns of heightened cases of toxicity during holidays like Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day and Halloween, when chocolate is readily available.
The researchers found that Christmas, followed by Easter, were the worst times for dogs regarding the risk of toxicity.
For the study, the researchers examined records from 229 veterinary practices between 2012 and 2017, specifically focusing on cases that dealt with chocolate poisoning during the common chocolate heavy holidays.
All in all, the researchers had data from 386 cases involving 375 individual animals.
One in four of the cases occurred an hour after eating the chocolate, while over 50 percent of the cases were brought to the vet within six hours of chocolate consumption.
The symptoms reported in the cases were typical with chocolate toxicity, but none of the cases were severely life-threatening.
The researchers found that access to chocolate was four times more likely for dogs during Christmas and twice as likely during Easter. Interestingly, there were no increased cases during Valentine’s day or Halloween.
“Here we describe significant peaks of chocolate intoxication, most notably at Christmas and to a lesser extent Easter presumably reflecting the enhanced availability of seasonally-related chocolate such as Easter-eggs, chocolate Santa Claus figurines and Christmas tree decorations, possibly in the hands of younger members of society,” said the authors in their study.
You should keep chocolate away from your pets all year long, but this study shows that it’s important to be extra aware of chocolate in the house during the December holidays.