As families fill their homes with festive dances until holidays, specialists advise pet owners not to put their dogs at risk without their knowledge.
A new study published at Vet Records, an official journal of the British Veterinary Association, reveals that the risk of chocolate drinking in dogs is at its peak during Christmas and, to a lesser extent, on Easter.
Researchers at the University of Liverpool said that dog owners must be aware of the increased risk and take additional steps to protect their four-legged friends.
"The health message is clear: it protects the chocolates of all dogs, especially those of the youngest," Clan News Alan Radford told CBS News.
Chocolate contains theobromine - a stimulant similar to caffeine - which can cause symptoms such as vomiting, increased heart rate, anxiety and convulsion in dogs.
Although chocolate has long recognized as a health risk for dogs, researchers have wanted to determine whether there is a seasonal exposure pattern.
For this study, they reviewed 229 veterinary practices in the United Kingdom between 2012 and 2017 regarding dog consultations that consumed chocolate around Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day and Halloween. In total, researchers included 386 cases from 375 individual animals in their analysis.
The results have shown that dogs are four times more likely to be brought to a veterinarian to eat chocolate at Christmas time than those who are not holidaymakers. By Easter, the puppy is twice as likely to be seen for a chocolate-related illness.
The researchers did not watch any spikes around Halloween or Valentine's Day.
Chocolate snacks including chocolate bars and boxes (often gift choices), chocolate cakes, Easter eggs, liqueurs, chocolate rabbits, Christmas Calendars and Christmas tree decorations.
Vomiting was the most common symptom, reported in 64 cases, while in 28 cases high heart rate was reported, greater than 120 beats per minute. Excitement and agitation happened, but they were less frequent, only in 12 cases, and seizures were not reported. None of these symptoms was a deadly threat in these cases.
The report also showed that younger dogs older than four years had a higher risk of older dogs. No special breed is associated with high risk.
"It is important that houses know that chocolate is potentially toxic, especially for dogs," Radford said. "Chocolate should keep away from your pets, especially during holiday periods such as Christmas and Easter, when it is more prone to being more accessible."
Are you concerned that your dog is eating an amount of chocolate? Call your veterinarian immediately and be prepared to describe the type of chocolate and the quantity you are eating