Death by chocolate and other dog killers

All that leftover Christmas food is a dangerous enough temptation for humans - but it can be lethal to dogs, vets are warning.

Slipping your dog that extra sausage from the barbie is closer to cruelty than kindness.

The fat content in one snarler is equivalent for a small dog to a human chowing down 14 of them, the New Zealand Veterinary Association says.

And chocolate can be deadly, thanks to a bitter alkaloid found in the cacao plant, known as theobromine. Dark chocolate is the worst, with a standard 200g block enough to kill a small dog.

The association says all chocolate should be kept out of paws' reach, and not left lying around or dangling off a Christmas tree.

Christmas cake and fruit mince pies are also potential killers, because raisins and grapes are known toxins.

Totally Vets senior small animals veterinarian Christine Moloney said chocolate was the most common form of dog poisoning seen at the Feilding clinic.

"They eat whole boxes, the wrapping and everything. Or they pig out on all the leftovers and get pancreatitis, which makes them quite sick.

"We had one come in one year with onion poisoning - they had fed him all the scraps of their burgers . . ."

The same problem was not found with cats. "It's quite rare for cats to be poisoned, because they're fussy little eaters - but dogs will eat anything and everything."

Other common summer ailments included heat stroke - typically when dogs were left in hot cars - bee stings, and injuries from being hit by vehicles.

There were also more fighting wounds, usually when excited pups got into "fisticuffs" with other dogs on the beach, she said.

Vomiting, diarrhoea and hyperactivity could be signs of poisoning, followed by tremors and seizures and pancreatitis, Cath Watson of the vet association said.

The Dominion Post