Christmas is a high-risk period for dogs, a time when they are liable to eat more chocolate, a substance toxic for them, than during the rest of the year, British scientists noted in a study on Thursday. The researchers, from the University of Liverpool, warned that dog owners needed to be aware of the higher risk, especially at the Christmas season, and to a lesser extent at Easter, when chocolate tends to be more available at home.
For man’s best friend, the enemy is called theobromine, a bitter substance present in cocoa beans. It causes vomiting, diarrhoea, palpitations, convulsions, irregular heartbeat and, in the worst cases, internal bleeding and heart attacks.
The researchers found, based on data from 229 British veterinary centres between 2012 and 2017, that the risk of poisoning by chocolate was four times as great at Christmas and twice as great at Easter than at other times of the year. The main sources of poisoning were boxes of chocolates, chocolate cake, Santa Claus and other figurines, Advent calendars and Christmas tree decorations.
The University of Liverpool team analyzed 375 affected dogs, finding that those below the age of four years were more often affected than older ones, but that there was no evidence of given breeds being more affected than others.
If the symptoms start becoming visible in a dog suspected of eating chocolate four to five hours earlier, the Giphar network of pharmacists recommends taking it to a vet. In the meantime, leave it in a quiet place and reduce its body temperature by placing a wet towel on its neck, the network said on its Internet site.
Chocolate is also toxic for cats, but they seem to like it less.