The Kennel Club cautions dog owners on canine chocolate consumption ahead of Easter

New data released ahead of Easter by The Kennel Club, the UK’s largest organisation dedicated to dog welfare, shows cases of chocolate poisoning in dogs accelerate in April.

The data, collated and analysed by Agria Pet Insurance, The Kennel Club’s insurance partner, reveals that April, on average, sees a 54% increase in dogs being poisoned by chocolate compared to other times of the year, making it the second highest month for claims after the Christmas period. These concerning figures have led The Kennel Club to warn owners of Easter risks, and issue advice on keeping dogs safe this spring, including avoiding ticks and livestock.

“Many families and friends may be celebrating Easter in larger groups this year, no longer needing to restrict numbers, and with more people owning dogs than ever before, we want to remind all owners to keep an extra careful eye on their four-legged friends,” commented Bill Lambert, dog health expert at The Kennel Club. “Our furry companions can sniff out even the best hidden chocolate eggs and non-canine friendly confectionaries, as these worrying new statistics show.

“As a society of dog lovers, we naturally want to include our pets as part of the festivities. However, to make sure Easter remains happy and safe for everyone, we want to raise awareness among dog owners, new and experienced, of certain elements that pose a particular danger to dogs at this time of year.”

Last Easter, Buddy, a three-year-old Toy Poodle from Hertfordshire, discovered the dangers of chocolate when he unfortunately got his paws on an Easter egg. Buddy’s owners noticed him being sick and were concerned by its dark brown colour. After trying to identify what Buddy might have eaten, they soon discovered a half-eaten chocolate egg, with more sweets inside also gone. The family quickly rushed Buddy to the vet while he shook and gagged in the car. Buddy was immediately put onto a drip, kept overnight and monitored the next day. Fortunately, Buddy did fully recover, however, the incident came at a costly sum of nearly £1,000, as well as causing both Buddy and his family plenty of anguish.

Vicky Wentworth, Managing Director of Agria Pet Insurance, commented: “Every year, we see an increase in cases of dogs poisoned by chocolate during the Easter and Christmas periods. Often with more chocolate around, plus school holidays and unusual routines, it can be all too easy for dogs to get hold of Easter eggs and boxes of chocolates. Never underestimate just how adept a determined dog can be at getting hold of a treat they like the smell of – we are always surprised by the lengths some dogs go to to get what they want! So please keep chocolate, or anything toxic to your pets, far from their reach.”

The Kennel Club is reminding owners, and those visiting homes with canine companions, to ensure Easter remains a ‘pawsitive’ experience for all our dogs by following these tips:

Chocolate and traditional treat dangers

Sadly, chocolate brings a not-so-sweet reality of sickness for our dogs. Every Easter, thousands of dogs are rushed for emergency veterinary treatment due to consuming highly toxic chocolate. A dog’s acute sense of smell means our furry friends can all too easily sniff out, and unintentionally get their paws on, poisonous food.

Owners can help by keeping track of any chocolates brought into the house and keeping them safely out of reach, up high and behind the closed doors of cupboards. For those keeping up traditions of a festive chocolate egg hunt, it is important that your dog is kept away during this activity and ensure all the hidden chocolates are found before welcoming them back to the area.

Also keep an eye on other traditional treats, like hot cross buns and Simnel cake, which commonly contain grapes, raisins, currants and sultanas, all of which are highly toxic to dogs.

For any budding canine cooks, The Kennel Club has shared recipes for a range of Easter-themed treats, a safe alternative for pups to join in: thekennelclub.org.uk/easterrecipes

Seasonal socialising

As we continue to meet in larger groups, many puppies and older dogs may have got used to the solitude of lockdown and may become stressed when encountering new people, especially young, energetic children. Celebrations often bring new activities and more noises and smells for your four-legged friend, which might become overwhelming.

To avoid any seasonal stress and help your dog relax, continue their usual walking and eating routine. If you are welcoming more people into your home, make sure your pup still has their usual personal space so they can retreat to their bed for some chill time as and when they need it.

You can read more about how to get your dog well prepared, and follow advice on socialising at home via The Kennel Club’s online training hub: thekennelclub.org.uk/training

Spring has sprung

Spring sees new plants in bloom, both out in the garden, or on walks, and it is important for owners to spot the springtime plants that can pose a particular danger to dogs. Several common flowers, including daffodils, tulips and spring crocuses can be poisonous to dogs, so be alert if your dog is in the garden, especially if you planted these bulbs earlier in the year. If you suspect your dog has eaten any poisonous plants, contact your vet straight away and do not attempt to make your dog sick.

Meanwhile, snails, toads, ticks and adders are more common in spring and are potential health hazards to dogs as they can cause infections, bites or stings. While allowing your dog to go and explore the world, be vigilant in checking their fur for ticks, particularly after walks or playing in the garden grass. To help identify and remove any ticks or if your dog appears to have been bitten by an unknown animal, contact your vet for further advice.

Countryside cautions

Bright spring days and bank holidays off work can offer the opportunity for longer dog walks and the exploration of new areas. It is important before embarking on a new route to understand how to be responsible for you and your dog when walking in the countryside. Easter and spring bring an abundance of wildlife and livestock to the countryside, especially during lambing season. Whenever you are in proximity of livestock you must have your dog on a lead, under control and keep your dog from approaching or chasing any livestock or wildlife.

Ensure to check the latest local restrictions on dog walking areas and be aware that sometimes dogs are banned from areas such as beaches or fields during certain months, for everyone’s safety.

The Kennel Club has more advice on keeping your dog safe during spring, including health advice, training tips and guidance on your pup’s continuing exploration of the big wide world at: thekennelclub.org.uk/pawbypaw.