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Dogs and Easter: Not an eggscellent combination

Beatrice Smith

Easter is a time for celebration.

For some it’s a religious celebration, for some it’s a celebration of chocolate and for some, it’s simply a celebration of the biggest long weekend of the year.

Your dog is probably pretty excited too. Four whole days of you being at home! Lots of people in the house! Exciting! But according to Dr Merrin Hicks, Specialist Emergency and Critical Care Veterinarian at the Animal Referral Hospital (ARH), Easter is the second most dangerous time of the year for your pets behind Christmas and it’s no secret as to why.

“The main concern around Easter is the ingestion of chocolate,” she explains. “Dogs can’t metabolise chocolate like people can, so it’s a little bit like them having a massive caffeine overdose.”

“If you went and drank eight cups of coffee you’d be feeling very jittery, you’d have a rapid heart rate, possibly some vomiting and diarrhoea, abnormal heart rhythms and in the worst case scenario, we can see seizures and pets actually dying from chocolate poisoning.”

While many people choose dark chocolate with a higher cacao ratio for the taste or lower sugar content, Merrin explains that dark chocolate actually tends to be the worst for dogs, because of its highest concentration of theobromine. Cooking chocolate and cacao powder can also be hazardous.

Other Easter activities can also pose a threat for your pets, such as barbeques, where they can ingest high-fat food and foods that you would never expect to be dangerous for pets such as grapes, macadamia nuts and avocados. Even non-chocolate treats sweetened artificially can be dangerous.

“The artificial sweetener xylitol can cause a rapid drop in blood pressure as well as acute liver failure in cats and dogs,” warns Merrin.

Xylitol can be found in some protein powders, baking mixes, peanut butters and is in almost all sugar-free chewing gum and mints.

If your pet eats any chocolate or any of the above foods, Merrin instructs that you should contact your local veterinarian immediately or, if they’re closed, contact your nearest emergency centre.

To treat dogs who have ingested chocolate, Merrin explains that vets usually use a range of methods which can include making them vomit and pumping their stomach under anaesthesia.

Affected dogs might even need to be kept under observation with a heart monitor or on an IV drip, none of which sounds like the way you and your pup would like to spend the Easter long weekend.

“Having worked in emergency for 15 years, Easter and Christmas are by far our busiest times,” says Merrin. She puts this down to the fact that regular vets are normally closed partially or completely across Easter.

“At the ARH, what we provide through our After Hours Emergency Care service is care when people’s normal vets are closed. We have five specialist hospitals across Australia with the Canberra hospital location in Fyshwick.” Specialist veterinarians are on call for the most serious emergencies at Animal Referral Hospital Canberra over the Easter weekend.

So now you know where you can take your pup should the worst happen, what can you do to prevent this as much as possible?

Merrin stresses it’s mostly about being sensible

“Keep chocolate and other dangerous foods out of reach,” she says. “You basically just need to completely eliminate the possibility that your pet is going to eat chocolate.”

If your pet needs emergency veterinary care, call the Animal Referral Hospital immediately on 02 6280 6344.

the essentials

What: The Animal Referral Hospital Canberra
Where: 2 Yallourn Street, Fyshwick (just off Canberra Avenue)
When: Open 24/7, even on Easter Sunday
Phone: 02 6280 6344

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Beatrice Smith

Bea loves that her job as HerCanberra’s Online Editor involves eating, drinking and interviewing people - sometimes simultaneously. The master of HerCanberra’s publishing schedule, she’s usually found hunched over a huge calendar muttering to herself about content balance. Otherwise, you’ll find her at the movies or ordering a cheese board. More about the Author

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