Chocolate contains a compound, called theobromine, that can make dogs very sick. Depending on the age and size of your dog and the amount of chocolate they ate, it can even be fatal. Because dogs seek out chocolate despite its adverse effects on their system, vets see chocolate poisoning often, and more so on occasions where chocolate is a staple gift, like Easter, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day.
But what most dog-owners don’t know is that above all other holidays, Christmas is the most common time of year for chocolate poisoning.
A study done by researchers at the University of Liverpool looked at over 200 cases of chocolate toxicity in dogs. The study found that dogs are at twice as much risk of getting chocolate poisoning during Easter, and four times more likely to suffer from chocolate poisoning during Christmas.
At Easter, we may make a better mental note to safeguard our chocolate from our dog (which safeguards our dog from chocolate, in turn). But on Christmas, when chocolate is a common stocking stuffer, or a small chocolate-laden gift is slipped under the tree to wait until Christmas day, there are plenty of places for chocolate to hide on us. Our dogs, with their sharp noses and ill-advised temptations, will seek them out whether they are wrapped or not. This is one of the reasons why it’s much more of a risk during the holidays than typical ‘chocolate holidays’: chocolate is concealed to us on Christmas, but not to our dogs.
If you suspect that your dog has ingested chocolate (common signs are changes in behaviour, vomiting/diarrhea, increased thirst, excessive bathroom breaks, elevated heart rate, muscle spasms and seizures) you should call your vet immediately. And, when gifting chocolate, always make sure to label it for dog owners.