The mystery of chocolate unwrapped

Following the post-Christmas lull, chocolate is big on the scene again with Easter just round the corner. But before you decide to treat your cat, dog or rabbit with a taste of your chocolate egg, remember that it's toxic for them. But why is the treat, which we consume more at Easter than any other time of year, so bad for our pets?

The active ingredient in chocolate is the cause of the problem. Theobromine is a stimulant similar to caffeine and is very difficult for cats, dogs and rabbits to break down. Eating chocolate can lead to a build up of toxic concentrations of the stimulant, and symptoms may include an increased heart rate, hyperactivity, vomiting and diarrhoea, and sometimes even convulsions.

Levels of toxicity vary depending on quantities and the type of chocolate eaten; theobromine levels increase with coca levels, so dark chocolate has much higher concentrations than white chocolate. According to the Veterinary Poisons Information Service, chocolate it is the most common poison to affect dogs in the UK. The levels of poisoning not only depend on the type and quantity of chocolate, but also the size of the dog - dogs often consume everything in sight, so a small dog eating the same amount of chocolate as a large dog is much more at risk. Cats may be less inclined to eat chocolate, but it is still toxic if they do, and with rabbits, owners should be very careful as rabbits cannot vomit, omitting one of the principal symptoms.

So the best thing to do this weekend is to keep all chocolate out of each from pets - that leaves more for you! If you're concerned your pet may have eaten chocolate, take him or her to your vet immediately.

Do you have any experience of your pets eating chocolate by accident? Let us know in the box below.