Dogs and chocolate don’t mix

Your favourite Easter treat can also be deadly to your furry friends.

Written by Medibank
Golden retriever tempted by a piece of chocolate cake.

As Easter rolls around for another year, it’s not just the dangers of chocolate to our waistlines we should be mindful of, but also the dangers it poses to our furry companions.

Let’s take a look at why chocolate is so dangerous to dogs, other foods that are toxic to pets, and what to do if your dog eats something they shouldn’t have.

Easter mightn’t be a dog’s best friend

As one of Australia’s leading pet insurance administrators, PetSure – who administer Medibank’s pet insurance – know the dangers of dogs eating chocolate all too well. They compiled monthly averages of chocolate poisonings over a five-year period, and it shows Christmas and Easter are responsible for the biggest spike in cases throughout the year.

Graph showing 5-year chocolate toxicity monthly average  and the festive spikes

Source: PetSure


According to PetSure, whilst chocolate is toxic for cats, they’re more cautious and represent significantly fewer incidents.

What happens when my dog eats chocolate?

High sugar concentration in chocolate can upset doggy tummies and the high fat content can cause pancreatitis. But it’s the combination of caffeine and theobromine that can prove most dangerous, elevating heart rates and stimulating the nervous system of dogs.

How much chocolate is toxic to dogs?

That depends on the concentration of theobromine. For example, here’s a list of chocolate types listed in order of theobromine content:

  1. Cocoa powder (most toxic)
  2. Unsweetened cooking chocolate
  3. Semisweet chocolate
  4. Dark chocolate
  5. Milk chocolate

Other foods that are toxic to pets

With Easter coming up, it’s natural to focus our attention on chocolate, the festive treat of choice, but there are other foods we should be mindful of too. These include:

  • Onions & garlic (and foods containing them)
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Raisins and grapes
  • Foods containing caffeine
  • Fatty foods

Be especially cautious of hot cross buns as many of them contain raisins and/or chocolate! Tomatoes are especially dangerous to cats as are lily plants. And avocados are toxic to dogs.

Artificial sweeteners such as Xylitol (found in chewing gum, toothpaste and some baked goods) can trick the dog’s metabolic system into thinking it’s sugar, resulting in low blood sugar, which in turn can lead to seizures and even death.

Even if it’s not edible, it’s important to remember that animals sometimes use smell and taste to investigate any curious objects. So be mindful of Easter decorations that have the potential to be a choking hazard.

What to do if your dog eats chocolate

Firstly, it’s important to know the signs of poisoning. Signs of toxicity include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness
  • Increased urination
  • Tremors
  • Elevated or abnormal heart rate
  • Seizures

If you notice any of these warning signs, or suspect your dog has ingested any chocolate, call your veterinarian immediately. It’s always best to respond with the greatest urgency and play it safe from the outset, for the sake of your fur buddy.

How to keep them safe during Easter festivities

Instilling food discipline in your pooch is always a good starting point. Teaching them a “Leave it!” command can be an effective way to curb that insatiable urge to pick up any dropped food.

For us humans, it’s important to put food away from the reach of prying paws at all times. Festive occasions may also bring many people together, some of whom wouldn’t have grown up with animals, let alone understand the dangers of certain foods to them, so it’s worthwhile informing your guests of these dangers.

If an Easter Egg hunt is on the cards, be mindful of all the hiding spots so that you can collect all the unclaimed eggs and prevent any curious doggy tastebuds finding them.

And ensure they’re looked after the best they can

A man’s best friend deserves the best, so provide them with the best care possible. Medibank Dog Insurance offers three levels of cover for your dog’s medical expenses, including the industry-first Emergency Pet Care, for dogs aged from 8 weeks to 9 years old. Find out more on our Medibank Dog Insurance page.

Looking for Pet Insurance? 

Get peace of mind with Medibank Pet Insurance. Plus, health members save 10%.

Important things you should know

Terms, conditions and waiting periods apply. Medibank Pet Insurance is general insurance issued by the insurer The Hollard Insurance Company Pty Ltd (ACN 090 584 473; AFSL 241436) (Hollard), is promoted by Medibank Private Limited (ACN 080 890 259; AR 286089) (Medibank) and administered by PetSure (Australia) Pty Ltd (ACN 075 949 923; AFSL 420183) (PetSure). Medibank acts as an authorised representative of PetSure. Medibank will receive a commission which is a percentage of the premium paid to Hollard and PetSure may receive a portion of the underwriting profit, if any - ask PetSure for more details.

Any advice provided is general only, has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs and may not be right for you. Consequently, before acting on this information, you should consider the appropriateness of this information having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. You should obtain and consider the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) in deciding whether to acquire, or continue to hold, Medibank Pet Insurance. PetSure can be contacted by telephone: 132 331 or by mail: Locked Bag 9021, Castle Hill, NSW 1765.

Written by Medibank

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