Dog owners should be wary of their pets eating festive treats as vets prepare for an increase in chocolate poisoning over the Christmas period.
According to research published in Vet Record, more than 350 dogs have suffered the symptoms of chocolate exposure in the last five years, with advent calendars, Christmas tree decorations, Santa Claus figurines and gift box selections among the toxic items eaten by dogs.
The study highlighted one canine that devoured six Chocolate Oranges and six Toblerones; another dog was treated for poisoning after gulping down a hot chocolate drink
Chocolate contains theobromine, a stimulant similar to caffeine, which can cause vomiting, increased heart rate, agitation and seizures in dogs.
Between 2012 and 2017, 386 cases of chocolate poisoning involving 375 animals were reported at almost 230 veterinary practices in the UK, researchers at the University of Liverpool found.
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.
Last December, puppy Narla, who was nine months old at the time, nearly died after eating a box of liqueur chocolates from under the Christmas tree, animal charity PDSA said.
She was rushed to Blackpool PDSA pet hospital where she received life-saving treatment.
Vet Terry Ogdin said: "We estimated that Narla had eaten around 200g of chocolate, which is an extremely dangerous amount for a dog of her size.
"Thankfully she was brought in very quickly and we were able to treat her before the chocolate had a chance to digest."
Owner Suzanna Dixon, 32, from Blackpool, said: "Not only did Narla eat a huge amount of chocolate, but they were also liqueur ones so the alcohol made it even worse.
"There won't be any chocolates under the Christmas tree this year and I'd urge others to ensure they don't leave any chocolate within easy reach."
Bailey, a 13-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier, needed urgent treatment after wolfing down two large milk chocolate and hazelnut bars last month, but has since made a full recovery.
Angela Alders, 53, from Birmingham, said: "I was terrified she wasn't going to make it.
"She's my little prima donna and rules the house, but she's my world and I would be distraught if anything happened to her."
The PDSA said owners should keep pets away from chocolate and other toxic foods such as alcohol, grapes, sultanas, onions and garlic.
Veterinary researcher Dr Peter-John Mantyla Noble, who led the University of Liverpool study, said: "People should keep festive chocolates away from pets. If chocolate is consumed, owners should talk to their vet as soon as possible, and ideally be prepared to quantify the amount and type of chocolate consumed. Information on the chocolate packaging may help the vet take the best action.
"While many cases of chocolate-eating are not at toxic levels, where they are, it is better to see the vet quickly."