Will you be covered if your pet eats chocolate this Easter?

C0-author: Sean Callery

With Easter fast approaching, one Australian pet insurer has warned pet owners about the dangers of leaving chocolate unattended.

Easter and dogs

Pet Insurance Australia spokesperson Nadia Crighton said that while Easter is a time for joy and celebration, it is also a time of year when there is an increase in pets being poisoned, particularly by eating chocolate.

“Chocolate is highly toxic to dogs,” Ms Crighton said. “Plus, being natural scavengers, they can sniff out these delights even if well hidden.”

“If you suspect your pet has ingested chocolate, it’s important you seek veterinary treatment quickly. Dogs will also tend to ingest the entire box, including the wrappers, plastic and ribbon.”

“All of this can wreak havoc on their systems and cause your pet to become very ill,” Ms Crighton said.

According to Pet Insurance Australia, it recorded 1,497 claims for chocolate poisoning in 2018. However, it says the number of dogs affected could be much higher if you consider those pets not covered by insurance.

“Chocolate poisoning is the most common form of claimed toxicity in Australia, so it’s very important the message is out loud and clear about this dangerous and common issue,” Ms Crighton said.

The top 5 toxicity claims according to Pet Insurance Australia

  1. Chocolate
  2. Toxin exposure
  3. Rodenticide (rat poison)
  4. Grapes/raisins
  5. Ibuprofen

Are you covered if your dog eats chocolate?

According to Canstar data, at the time of writing, 67 of the ‘accident & illness’ and ‘accident, illness & routine care’ pet insurance policies we rate offer cover for toxicity through ingestion, which, depending on your provider, may include chocolate poisoning. This represents almost 90% of the pet insurance policies of this kind rated by Canstar.

Mitch Watson, Canstar’s Group Manager of Research and Ratings, said it can pay to be aware of what your dog has eaten and to contact your local vet if you suspect they’ve consumed chocolate.

“The effects of dog poisoning can be severe if not fatal – dog owners should take active precautions to make sure their loved pets don’t get access to chocolate this Easter,” Mr Watson said.

“A majority of accident and illness pet insurance policies will cover the impacts of a dog ingesting chocolate.

“However, on an accident-only policy, you are less likely to be covered. When it comes to toxicity cover, that usually only extends to snake bites on accident only policies.”

According to Mr Watson, how much you’re covered for will depend on your policy inclusions – particularly the annual benefit limit and percentage of vet costs reimbursed.

“If you are unsure of whether you are covered, review the product disclosure statement or get in contact with your insurer to give yourself peace of mind.”

How to recognise if your pet is suffering from chocolate poisoning

Unfortunately, we at Canstar speak from experience when it comes to chocolate poisoning. Canstar’s Editor, Nina Tovey, lost her dog Layla (below) several years ago after Layla ate a bag of Easter eggs.

“My beautiful greyhound Layla (a retired racer) passed away far before her time at the age of seven after eating a bag of Easter eggs brought over as a gift,” Ms Tovey said.

“I remember waking up in the morning and seeing chocolate wrappers strewn over our backyard, and later that day when we went to check on her she had quietly passed away on her dog bed.

“It was a horrendous shock and one of the worst days of my life given she was like a child to us, and so hard to accept given we’d had no warning signs she was ill.”

Nina said she didn’t realise just how poisonous chocolate could be, even for a 24-kilogram greyhound.

“I try and tell as many people as possible about what happened to Layla so they can realise how important it is to keep chocolate away from their dogs, particularly during festive periods like Easter.”

If you’re concerned your pooch is suffering from chocolate poisoning, the RSPCA says common symptoms can include:

  • restlessness
  • excitement
  • hyperactivity
  • nervousness
  • trembling
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • increased drinking and increased urination
  • increased heart rate
  • muscle tremors
  • seizures
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