Vets are urging dog owners to be careful with Easter eggs this weekend to prevent their pets being poisoned.

Chocolate contains theobromine, which is toxic to dogs because they struggle to metabolise it. Eating it can result in the death of the animal if too much is consumed.

Dr Cat Hylton from Eastcott Vets in Dorcan, explained that the level of toxicity depends on the dog’s body weight and the cocoa content of the chocolate consumed.

She said: “Smaller dogs need to consume much less than larger dogs to see problems."

The higher cocoa content in dark chocolate makes it worse than milk chocolate.

Anyone who thinks their dog has eaten chocolate is advised to phone their vet as soon as possible.

Dr Hylton said: “It’s really helpful if you can have the packet with you, so we can know exactly what was in it and the cocoa content.

"If you can’t see this, let us know the make and size of the chocolate so we can look it up.”

She added: “If we see the animal within four hours, we usually make them vomit. But it is important to see the animal after this time frame to do further tests and monitor the animal’s health.”

Both vets reported a spike in cases of poisoning at times of the year when chocolate sales go up.

Dr Hylton warned of the dangers of raisin toxicity as well, since these are often also found in treats.

Dr Nicholas Hartley, from Thameswood Veterinary Clinic, estimated 10g of solid dark chocolate could be a toxic dose for a small dog.

He said: “The problem now is that dark chocolate is becoming much more fashionable, and can have approximately 10 times as much cocoa as milk chocolate.”

Symptoms for owners to look out for include excessive thirst, hyperactivity, vomiting, diarrhoea and fits.

The effects of chocolate poisoning in dogs usually appear within 12 hours and can last up to three days.

Dr Hylton said: “It can be quite difficult to spot them. You don’t necessarily see clear changes in your pet.

"Therefore it is important to contact the vet as soon as you suspect they have eaten chocolate.”

To help reduce the risks to dogs this Easter both vets encouraged dog owners to take a common sense approach.

“Don’t leave any chocolate lying around where animals can reach it,” said Dr Hartley.

Owners should also keep dogs securely indoors whilst outdoor egg hunts are under way.

“Make sure you keep track of the eggs that have been hidden,” added Dr Hylton.

“It turns out dogs are much better at finding eggs than children, and I have known dogs to find and eat chocolate eggs still hidden in a garden a week later.”