To do so, they scoured the Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network database, which includes patient documents from 500 clinics. They examined 2.7 million records of dogs from November 2012 and May 2017 and identified 386 cases of chocolate ingestion suffered by animals.
After analyzing the results, they found that dogs are most exposed to chocolate during the Christmas season. In fact, chances are five times higher than holiday-free times of the year.
“Dogs love a chocolate treat and at Christmas there are plenty about. Sadly dogs can’t eat chocolate safely so many of them end up making an unplanned visit to the vet, which can disrupt the celebrations,” co-author Peter-John Noble said in a statement.
Why is that?
Chocolate contains a toxic ingredient for dogs called theobromine, which is a caffeinelike stimulant. It can lead to an upset stomach, a racing heartbeat, dehydration, seizures or even death.
But December isn’t the only troublesome month. Easter, which is in March or April, is a risk period, too, as the candy is more likely to be in the home.
To combat the issue, researchers are cautioning people to keep festive chocolate away from their pups. In the case their pooch does consume it, owners should see the vet as soon as possible and be prepared to quantify how much chocolate was eaten.
“Big data is allowing us to perform wide scale studies of issues like chocolate exposure,” Noble said. “This will help us to understand the influence of age, breed, season and geography on a wide range of different problems.”