Dog owners have been urged to keep festive treats away from their pets, as vets prepare for a spike in cases of chocolate poisoning.
More than 350 dogs have suffered the symptoms of chocolate exposure in the last five years, with animals more than four times as likely to get ill in the run-up to Christmas, according to research published in Vet Record.
Advent calendars, Christmas tree decorations, Santa Claus figurines and gift box selections were among the confectionery items devoured by dogs.
One particularly greedy canine got through six Chocolate Oranges and six Toblerones, while another was treated for poisoning after gulping down a hot chocolate drink, the study found.
Chocolate contains theobromine, a stimulant similar to caffeine, which can cause vomiting, increased heart rate, agitation and seizures in dogs.
Researchers at the University of Liverpool warned of “significant peaks” in chocolate intoxication and called for dog owners to be vigilant over Christmas.
They wrote: “Chocolate ingestion has a unique seasonal pattern which merits highlighting this risk to clients, particularly in the run-up to Christmas and Easter as chocolate becomes more accessible within the household.”
Between 2012 and 2017, 386 cases of chocolate poisoning involving 375 animals were reported at almost 230 veterinary practices in the UK.
Chocolate exposure was more than four times as likely to be recorded at Christmas and almost twice as likely to be recorded at Easter than in non-festive periods.
None of the cases seen by vets were considered to be life-threatening, researchers said.
The condition was more common in dogs under four years old, but no particular breeds were associated with increased risk.