Dog poisoning cases up by almost 50 per cent
By Jasper Copping and Graham Mole
Last updated: 7:14 PM BST 12/07/2008
Dogs that have swallowed chocolate, grapes and raisins are fuelling a huge rise in pet poisoning cases.
The number of dogs falling ill after eating chocolate soared by 48 per cent last year to 1,166, according to the Veterinary Poisons Information Service.
Chocolate contains theobromine, a stimulant found in the cocoa bean, which affects the central nervous system as well as the heart muscle and can kill a dog.
The service, which advises vets, has also seen an increase of 91 per cent in dogs becoming sick after eating grapes, raisins or sultanas.
Toxins from the fruit can cause renal failure in the animals. In some cases, small dogs have died after eating as few as four grapes.
The problem has only been recognised in recent years and the number of cases reported to the service rose from 117 to 224.
Vets believe many owners are unaware of the dangers and have fed their pets food such as cake and biscuits containing chocolate or grapes as treats, while in other cases the animals have helped themselves.
"There has been a huge increase in the number of inquiries about chocolate poisoning," said Alexander Campbell of VPIS. "It often tends to be scavenging-type dogs, like labradors and Jack Russells, that find them about the house and are attracted to the smell."
A total of 17,000 cases of poisoned cats and dogs were reported last year – up 20 per cent on the previous 12 months. The figures show there has been a steep rise in the number of dogs ingesting painkillers such as ibuprofen (22 per cent), paracetamol (20 per cent) and aspirin (24 per cent). Vets believe the animals sometimes find the drugs lying around the house, but that in many cases, they are deliberately given the pills by their owners when they are injured, as it is cheaper than taking them to a vet.
There was a similar increase in the number of dogs treated after eating oral contraceptive tablets – the sixth most common cause of canine poisoning. Most of the cases reported to the VPIS related to dogs, with cats second.
The most common cases of poisoning among cats involve animals that are treated using a type of flea treatment meant for dogs.
The number of calls to the VPIS – part of a toxicology unit at London's Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital – showed an increase in poisoned rabbits because of the growing trend for owners to keep the pets indoors.
Chris Laurence, veterinary director of the Dogs Trust, said: "Dogs' habits don't change much and nor do people's. Dogs eat what they can and people will still eat chocolate, grapes and raisins and will still leave them around, while some will still feed them to their dogs.
"I wonder if people are a little bit more careless these days about leaving things lying around and with costs going up, are willing to try to give their pets their own pills."
Most common dog toxins
Rat poison 1,283 cases in 2007
Oral contraceptives 334
Grapes, raisins and sultanas 224
Slug bait 190
Carprofen – an anti-inflammatory drug for dogs which can produce adverse reactions. 188
Diclofenac – used to treat arthritis in humans. 155
Snake bites 153
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