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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Easter treats dogs should avoid

What foods should I ensure my dog doesn’t get his paws on this Easter?

Nicola Bates, Information Scientist, at the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS), advises...


Chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical very similar to caffeine, which dogs do not tolerate very well. The amount of theobromine depends on the quality and type of chocolate. White chocolate contains very little and is generally not a risk but even a relatively small amount of dark chocolate (which is very high in theobromine) can cause agitation, hyperexcitability, tremors, convulsions and problems with the heart.  Dogs will not unwrap chocolate and can eat a very large quantity. The wrappers are not toxic but could cause obstruction of the gut.

Grapes and dried fruits (currants, sultanas, raisins)

Grapes and their dried products (currants, sultanas and raisins) are toxic to dogs.   Ingestion of even a small quantity can cause severe kidney failure. Don’t forget this will include food items that contain dried fruits such as Hot Cross Buns. Be aware that chocolate-coated raisins are available so there is the additional risk of chocolate toxicity with these.

Xylitol (food additive code E967)

Xylitol is a naturally occurring, sugar-free sweetener and is frequently found in sugar-free chewing gums and sweets, and some pharmaceuticals including nicotine replacement chewing gums. Xylitol is extremely harmful to dogs and can cause low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) and liver damage.


Dogs may help themselves to any alcohol left unattended including wine and liqueurs and it can cause similar signs in them as it does in their owners when drunk in excess.   Dogs can become wobbly and drowsy and in severe cases there is a risk of low body temperature, low blood sugar and coma.  

Bread dough

Uncooked bread dough that has been left to prove can be hazardous to dogs. The dough expands in the warm, moist stomach and this can result in bloating and obstruction. Also the yeast produces alcohol and this can cause additional effects (see above).

Macadamia nuts

Macadamia nuts can cause lethargy, increased body temperature, tremor, lameness and stiffness. Be aware that chocolate-coated macadamia nuts are available so there is also a risk of chocolate toxicity with these.


If there is any food left over, be careful to dispose of it promptly and appropriately. Mouldy food (including yoghurt, bread and cheese) can contain toxins produced by the mould that cause rapid onset convulsions in dogs.

British Veterinary Association president, Robin Hargreaves, advises... 

Every year vets treat thousands of cases of chocolate poisoning in pets and sadly the poisoning is sometimes fatal. The majority of the cases we see are accidental chocolate consumption. Dogs have a keen sense of smell and can easily hunt down hidden Easter eggs.

Owners should try to store chocolates well out of reach of their animals to avoid an emergency trip to the vet at Easter.

If you suspect that your dog has ingested chocolate don’t delay in contacting your vet. The quicker we can offer advice and treatment the better. Vets will want to know how much chocolate your dog has eaten and what type.

Make sure you know how to contact your vet out of hours and over the bank holiday weekend when opening hours may be different.

The effects of chocolate poisoning in dogs usually appear within 12 hours and can last up to three days. First signs can include excessive thirst, vomiting, diarrhoea and restlessness. These symptoms can then develop into hyperactivity, tremors, abnormal heart rate, hyperthermia and rapid breathing. In severe cases dogs show fits and heartbeat irregularities and some cases can result in coma or death.  

The Animal Welfare Foundation provides information on a range of household items that may be poisonous to pet animals in its leaflet ‘Pets and Poisons’ which can be downloaded from


  1. Only macadamia is in the list. How about other nuts like groundnuts, pistachios and almonds?

  2. I have given just like small piece of hershy bar to my dog but only cause he is there whike im eatting mine an he sems to live it but no i no why he was twiching an breathing to rapidly one it scared me...NO MORE....THANX