Pet owner Stephanie Pitt says a panicked trip to the vet with family pooch Lulu last Christmas shows why it's important to keep chocolate away from dogs.
Pitt said the dog sniffed out and gorged on some chocolate her daughter had buried at the bottom of a container.
"She had forgotten it was there until we found the empty wrapper on the floor in her room. Lulu had managed to find it, pull it out and eat it," said the Red Beach, North Auckland, resident.
Pitt said the dog vomited shortly thereafter and had to be taken to the emergency vet for treatment costing $188.
Having gone through this experience, Pitt recommended families ensure chocolate is stored securely out of reach of dogs, particularly during chocolate-filled events such as Easter.
Simply burying it at the bottom of something may not be a good idea if you have a dog like Lulu," Pitt said.
Southern Cross pet insurance general manager Anthony McPhail says stories such as these are common.
"In 2017, we paid nearly 400 claims totalling $22,536.41 for the treatment of chocolate poisoning in dogs, with vet bills ranging from around $100 to $1000 per case," he said.
"It can be serious and in some cases fatal if your dog eats large amounts of chocolate. When it comes to your furry friend, it's not worth the risk and better to keep chocolate well out of reach."
Research shows that even a little chocolate can be fatal to dogs. A canine weighing 10kg would need to eat only 60g of dark chocolate to be at risk of theobromine poisoning - this is roughly half the amount of a standard-sized Easter egg.
Larger dogs, weighing around 30kg, would need to eat about 160g of chocolate.
Early signs of poisoning in dogs include restlessness and hyperactivity, followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rapid breathing, muscle tension and rapid heart rate, and seizures may follow.
These symptoms can occur between four and 24 hours after a dog consumes chocolate.