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‘Tis the season to hide the chocolate from your dog

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While Christmas may be a time of sweet indulgence for humans, for dogs it is a period of heightened risk of chocolate poisoning, experts warned on Thursday. With edible tree decorations, sweet-laden advent calendars and gift boxes aplenty, chocolate becomes “more accessible” meaning dog owners must be extra vigilant, a University of Liverpool research team said.

When eaten by dogs, chocolate in small doses can cause vomiting or diarrhoea, and in large quantities it can lead to muscle tremors, seizures, an irregular heartbeat, internal bleeding or even heart attacks. It is responsible for about a quarter of all acute canine intoxication cases.

“Chocolate ingestion has a unique seasonal pattern which merits highlighting this risk,” the researchers wrote in the Vet Record journal after scrutinising five years worth data on chocolate poisoning from 229 British veterinary practices.

Such cases increase fourfold over Christmas compared to the rest of the year, they found, while at Easter it was double. Young dogs were more likely to eat chocolate than older ones.

“Sources of chocolate included bars and boxes (often gift selections) of chocolate, Easter eggs, chocolate cake, liqueurs, chocolate rabbits, Santa Claus figurines, advent calendars, and Christmas tree decorations,” the research team wrote. There was “one case involving a hot chocolate drink.”

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