Vets urge Northern Ireland dog owners to keep pets clear of 'toxic' chocs
Nearly two-thirds of vets in Northern Ireland say they treated pets who had eaten chocolate last Easter - leading to warnings for owners not to indulge their animals with sweet treats.
Some 63% of vets here dealt with at least one case of chocolate poisoning - slightly above the UK average of 62%, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) found.
One in eight vets treated five or more cases - more than double the amount reported over the previous two years.
BVA Northern Ireland branch president Alan Gordon said: "Easter is a time of great fun for the whole family, but chocolate treats meant for humans can be poisonous for our pets.
"Dogs in particular have a keen sense of smell and can easily sniff out sweet treats, so make sure any chocolate goodies are stored securely out of reach of inquisitive noses to avoid an emergency trip to the vet."
Poisoning is caused by theobromine, a naturally occurring chemical found in cocoa beans that isn't harmful to humans.
The level of toxicity depends on the amount of chocolate consumed and what the type of chocolate is. The BVA says that dark chocolate and cocoa powder are most dangerous to dogs.
Small dogs and puppies are at the highest risk of being affected by chocolate, due to their size.
MT Begley, a veterinary surgeon at Vets4Pets in south Belfast, echoed the warnings for pet owners to be vigilant over the Easter period.
"In the week around Valentine's Day we saw two cases of chocolate toxicity," she said.
"There is a spike during (holiday) periods. Dogs don't just eat one little bit of it either. They can eat the whole lot, as well as the wrapper."
Animal Friends, a UK-based pet insurance company, said that over the last three Easters, there have been more than 336 chocolate-related claims across the UK. Each claim averages a cost of over £250.