Neither yummy chocolate nor fluffy little lambs seem particularly dangerous on the face of it. But they can both land your pooch in an awful lot of trouble. Here's why, and how to avoid them and steer clear of a few other seasonal dangers.
Easter is on the horizon, and at which point millions of us Brits - religious or not - will fill our homes with chocolate eggs and have a jolly good four day scoff. Even if you don't do Easter eggs you might have the family round for a feast, an increasingly popular event for the Bank Holiday weekend. In which case there might be chocolate cake lurking around, or boxes of posh chocs.
But that's then... and this is now. In the meantime it's lambing season, something young dogs who haven't seen lambs before can find almost unbearably exciting. With a bit of luck your pooch won't take much notice. But if they haven't encountered lambs before and you come across some while you're out on walkies, it makes sense to take care.
We thought it'd be handy to look at the dangers of chocolate for dogs and give you some sensible advice about dogs and lambs while we're at it. Plus some guidance about other seasonal dog toxins to look out for.
Here's wishing you and your dog a happy, safe spring!
Chocolate and dogs don't mix – it's a killer
Just like Christmas, every Easter vets are flooded with poisoned dogs who have either been given chocolate by their unsuspecting owners or stolen it, completely unable to resist. But chocolate can easily kill your dog and it's one of the commonest causes of canine poisoning.
How much chocolate can my dog eat?
Easy. The answer is none. Not a single chunk. Just don't go there. The worst offenders are dark chocolate and baking chocolate, the safest is white chocolate but allchocolate is a doggie no-no.
What makes chocolate so poisonous for dogs?
Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, which are full of caffeine as well as a very similar chemical called theobromine. Dogs metabolise theobromine much more slowly than humans, so the 'buzz' they get from it lasts for hours and hours.
It's poisonous to cats, too, but they don't tend to like chocolate much so vets don't see anywhere near as many cases of feline chocolate poisoning.
Even tiny amounts of chocolate can make your dog throw up and give him or her the runs. Large amounts of chocolate lead to hyperactivity, tremors, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, seizures, respiratory failure and – worst of all – heart failure.
What about chocolate dog treats?
They're formulated to be safe, of course, but it's probably better not to feed choc dog treats to your pooch so they never get a taste for the stuff in the first place and are less likely to want to eat it if they find some within reach.
Keep chocs in a safe place
The best way to stop your dog from eating chocolate is to stash it somewhere safe, either too high up for them to reach or in a cupboard or drawer so they can't get at it.
What to do if your dog eats chocolate?
Get them to the vet as soon as you possibly can. Don't delay.
Keeping dogs out of trouble at lambing time
- If you don't know how your new dog will react to sheep, keep him or her on a lead to be on the safe side.
- If your dog doesn't usually take any notice of adult sheep, take care anyway because lambs are a different matter: smaller, faster-moving, more playful and much more exciting.
- Sheep are very easily stressed, much more so at this time of year. When a ewe is pregnant she's particularly vulnerable. Even if your dog just gets a bit too close or chases a pregnant sheep for a few seconds, it can easily bring on stress and cause a miscarriage.
- A dog doesn't need to actually attack a sheep physically to kill it. The terror of being chased is often enough.
- It's always a good idea to keep your dog on a lead when there's livestock around. It's probably wise to keep them on a lead whenever you're in the countryside or farmland, unless you know for sure there won't be any sheep or lambs around.
There's more to Easter than chocolate and lambs. Here are some more things to keep your eye open for:
Foil Easter egg wrapping – never let your dog chew or swallow the foil wrapping Easter eggs come in. It's impossible to digest and can cause terrible problems inside your pet's digestive system. If they eat some of it, get straight to the vet – your pooch might need surgery
Easter liliesare lovely but they're one of the most poisonous plants for pets, especially cats and dogs. The flowers can give your dog kidney failure in less than two days, for which there's no cure
The same goes for daffodils. The bulbs, leaves and flowers are all nasty, containing a toxic substance that makes dogs drool, vomit and get the runs. It can also cause an increased heart rate, abdominal pain, abnormal breathing and even an irregular heartbeat.
Hyacinths and tulips, both popular Easter favourites, can cause the same kinds of problems if eaten. If your dog has eaten any of these, it's straight to the vet.
Humans lovehot cross bunsbut raisinsare moderately to severely toxic to dogs and the dough– particularly if you make it yourself – is toxic, too:
- Raisins can cause dogs to vomit and get the runs, as well as being responsible for abnormal drinking and weeing, lethargy, a poor appetite, bad breath and dehydration.
- Unbaked dough can be poisonous. It expands in the warm, moist stomach environment where it can bloat up, which can lead to a twisted stomach. The signs are clear: vomiting, retching, distended stomach, high heat rate, weakness, collapse and sometimes death.
- Unbaked dough can also ferment to produce carbon dioxide and bloat your dog's tummy even more. Alcohol from the fermenting yeast is absorbed into the bloodstream, which comes with the risk of alcohol poisoning. Alcohol gives cats and dogs low blood sugar, low blood pressure and low body temperature, seizures and respiratory failure. If your dog eats dough or raisins, take them to the vet straight away.
Duck fat, turkey, pork and duck skin. Fat isn't good for dogs either, since it can affect their pancreas and heart and it's notoriously difficult to digest and cause canine pancreatitis. If your dog eats a small amount of fat or skin, they maybe OK, anything more then it's time for a vet visit. Cooked bones makes bones more brittle, therefore are never a good idea for dogs since they can splinter and cause internal injury to your dog and break their teeth!
Macadamia nuts are highly toxic to dogs. The clinical signs usually arrive within 12 hours and include weakness, an inability to walk (especially the hind legs), vomiting, staggering, depression, tremors and a high body temperature. Again, zoom them to the vets as fast as you can.
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