Chocolate is toxic for animals, so it’s important to make sure hidden Easter eggs don’t fall into the wrong hands – or paws.
At Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, Australia’s answer to the Easter bunny, the Greater Bilby, celebrated the holiday season with non-chocolate eggs.
Greater bilbies Kwoba and Gibson stayed safely away from chocolate eggs and foraged for some naturally dyed chicken eggs instead.
Giraffes were treated to African olives suspended in naturally crafted papier-mache eggs and hand-made woven baskets, all while overlooking Sydney Harbour.
Very fancy stuff.
Elephants also got in on the action, with their keepers stuffing papier-mache eggs with peanuts and hay.
Why chocolate is deadly for animals
Chocolate Easter eggs should be reserved for human kids (not baby goats), and dog owners should be careful to ensure their pet doesn’t chance upon leftovers from a hunt.
Clinical vet and lecturer in the School of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney, Anne Quain, urged dog owners to keep their chocolate stash away from their dogs, and resist the temptation to give their pets a chocolate ‘treat’.
“Despite efforts of the veterinary profession to inform owners about the risks of chocolate ingestion, particularly over the Easter period, we still see plenty of animals – especially dogs – for chocolate ingestion,” Dr Quain said.
“Even when owners are aware of the risks, they’re not always aware just how motivated their animals are to find and eat chocolate.”
Chocolate is toxic to pets as it contains caffeine and theobromine, and vegan chocolate could actually be the worst.
“The darker the chocolate, the more toxic to pets. A lot of gourmet and vegan chocolates are even more toxic to dogs because of their higher chocolate content,” explained Dr Quain.
Dr Quain said dogs are more likely to be victims of chocolate toxicity because “they are great at sniffing chocolate out, and they are highly food motivated”.
Signs of chocolate toxicity range from vomiting and diarrhoea to seizures and collapse. Some animals die from toxicity.
Chocolate should not be given to cats, rabbits, guinea pigs or other household pets, either.
“I have seen a rabbit with an intestinal obstruction due to eating a wrapped chocolate,” Dr Quain said.
Chocolate is also high in fat, and can trigger gastrointestinal upsets and pancreatitis in dogs and cats.
Signs of the life-threatening pancreatitis include reduced appetite, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea.
“Animals don’t show immediate signs of illness after eating chocolate – usually the reason that owners bring them in is because they have read or heard somewhere that chocolate is bad for pets,” Dr Quain said.
What to do if your dog finds an Easter egg
- If your dog steals an Easter egg, ask it to “drop it”
- If they swallow the egg (or any chocolate), ring your vet
- Your vet will ask you to estimate your pet’s body weight
- Know the time at which and the amount of chocolate your dog ate
- Know the type of chocolate, or recipe if the chocolate was in a baked good
- Be aware that raisins, artificial sweeteners and alcohol in some baked goods are also toxic to pets.