8 min read

What Happens To Your Dog If He Eats A Chocolate Bunny?

Here's how to keep your pup safe with all those tempting Easter candies lying around 🐇🍫🐶

For dogs, springtime means long trips to the park, soft grass on the paws (no more booties!) and plenty of basking in the (now significantly longer) hours of sunshine.

But the season of growth can also come with serious dangers that pet owners should not overlook. For those who celebrate Easter, baskets full of toys and candy can be deadly to dogs, and festive holiday flowers can wreak havoc on cats.

The pastel-colored, sugary marshmallow Peeps, jelly beans and SweeTarts that you find in your Easter basket are generally not toxic, but they can lead to gastrointestinal upsets when eaten by dogs, according to Dr. John Gicking of BluePearl Veterinary Partners.

If your pup has a tendency to raid the countertop and garbage can for food scraps, there’s one thing you definitely don’t want him getting his paws on this April — a solid chocolate bunny.

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Long considered an Easter staple, these adorable cacao creatures can cause your dog some serious discomfort — or worse.

“The toxic part of chocolate for dogs is something called theobromine, which is a caffeine-like substance,” Gicking tells The Dodo. “Dogs are more sensitive to the caffeine-like effects of theobromine than humans. Chocolate toxicity will cause a higher heart rate [and irregular heartbeat]; it will cause them to be sick to their stomach and they can have seizures.”

Dogs are not able to metabolize theobromine as quickly as humans, so even a tiny piece of chocolate can have lasting effects. In small quantities, your pup may experience stomach upset, vomiting, hyperactivity and jitters, as if they’ve had a bit too much coffee in the morning.

But not all types of chocolate are created equal. Dark chocolate and baking chocolate have higher concentrations of theobromine than milk chocolate, so the darker the chocolate the more poisonous the treat is for pets.

Dark chocolate contains, on average, 5.5 milligrams of theobromine per gram of chocolate, while milk chocolate contains 2.4 milligrams of theobromine per gram. A dark chocolate bar comprised of 70 to 80 percent cacao can contain a deadly 810 milligrams of theobromine, whereas a milk chocolate bar has a mere 64 milligrams of theobromine.

The severity of the symptoms will depend on the weight of your dog and the amount of chocolate he has consumed. “Mild signs of toxicity can occur when 0.7 ounces per pound of body weight is ingested,” according to PetMD, while "severe toxicity occurs when 2 ounces per pound of body weight is ingested (or as little as one pound of milk chocolate for a 20-pound dog).”

Easter bunnies come in many different sizes, so a one-pound solid dark chocolate Easter bunny is far more deadly than a small hollow milk chocolate rabbit or Cadbury Creme Egg. For pet owners who do not wish to give up their chocolate rabbit tradition, white chocolate bunnies are a safer bet, as white chocolate does not contain enough theobromine to be considered toxic (though its fattiness can affect a dog’s pancreas).

If your pup has consumed the whole Easter bunny, owners should rush to a nearby emergency veterinarian for care. If only a small amount of chocolate has been consumed — perhaps one of the ears has nibble marks — Gicking suggests calling a veterinarian for advice.

In cases of theobromine poisoning, a veterinarian will usually perform a physical exam and check the dog’s blood pressure. In some cases, an EKG may be required or vomiting may be induced.

But it’s not just chocolate that can have a negative effect on pets. When planting flowers in the front garden or making festive bouquets, keep in mind that daffodils and its bulbs are poisonous to dogs, and tulips can cause mouth irritation and stomach upset. Lilies, the striking Easter flower, are deadly for cats, Gicking notes, and can cause kidney failure. Cats may also try to swallow the plastic grass in Easter baskets, so be sure they don’t see the bright fluffy shreds as a plaything.

Thinking of making an Easter basket for your dog? Fill your pup’s basket with bunny-inspired dog toys, carrot-shaped chewing rope toys for epic games of tug-of-war, and dog treats that will help keep their teeth clean. You can even give your furry friend crunchy carrot sticks and green beans as a healthy snack. But if there's a cat around, make sure to leave the plastic grass out.