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Happy Easter to you, your family and your dog!

Just remember that when you have your ‘Easter Egg Hunt’ this weekend, you need to make sure that your dog does not participate and that all chocolate is found by the family and NOT your 4 legged friend – why? Because chocolate is LETHAL for dogs. Many think it is because chocolate contains caffeine, but this is not the problem. The cousin of caffeine, also a natural stimulant, is theobromine and our dogs do not have a specific enzyme that metabolizes theobromine (17 hours after eating chocolate and half of the theobromine is still in the dog’s system). The more theobromine the chocolate contains, the more poisonous it is for dogs. Dark chocolate is most dangerous, milk chocolate is less risky and white chocolate hardly contains any theobromine. A dog who weighs 25kg can become really sick by eating only 2.5 grams of chocolate (100 to 150mg of theobromine per kg of body weight can cause serious toxic reactions). There is no antitoxin for theobromine therefore dogs can only be treated by supporting the body to digest the dangerous compound and by fighting the symptoms. The first symptoms you will see can be any of these: rapid breathing and heartbeat (because of raised blood pressure), lots of drinking and peeing, hyperactivity and/or restlessness, vomiting and/or diarrhea. Really toxic amounts of theobromine can cause tremors, convulsions, epileptic seizures, respiratory failure and cardiac arrest (*). Please make sure there is no chocolate left around for your dog to eat and if he does go straight to the vet. But make sure Easter is fun for your dog too – if you are having lots of people and noise make sure you protect him by allowing him to find a secure space and if needs be a quiet place away from it all. When the 2 leggeds are gone, organise a Treat Search (**) with a jackpot at the end of it or a new toy so your dog can have a lovely Easter as well.

(*) Research collated by Dutch colleague Marlou Otto. (**) Treat Search: for those of you who have never done this before, just hide a few (say between 10 and 20 small treats) in the house or garden. If it is the first time keep it simple then just let your dog use his nose – say nothing just let him 'work it out' – he will. Marina Gates Fleming is a canine consultant working in Belgium.

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