Holidays, and all of the chocolate goodies that come with the celebrations, can be particularly dangerous for dogs, researchers warn.
Chocolate contains a stimulant called theobromine, which is similar to caffeine. In dogs, it can cause vomiting, increased heart rate, agitation and seizures.
In their study, British researchers discovered that dogs were over four times more likely to eat chocolate at Christmas and nearly twice as likely to do so at Easter than the rest of the year. There were no spikes around 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,” the University of Liverpool researchers wrote.
They examined the 2012-2017 records of 229 animal hospitals or clinics in the United Kingdom and identified 386 cases of chocolate exposure involving 375 dogs.
Of those cases, 26 percent of the dogs arrived at the clinic within one hour of eating chocolate and 56 percent within six hours.
Vomiting occurred in 17 percent of cases, a high heart rate in 8 percent, and neurological signs such as agitation and restlessness in 3 percent. No seizures were reported and none of the dogs had life-threatening problems.
The researchers said their findings show the need for dog owners to be aware of the increased risk around Christmas and Easter, and to be extra vigilant about keeping chocolate away from their dogs.
The study was published Dec. 20 in the journal Vet Record.
The ASPCA has more on holiday safety for pets.