Cheeky Chester the Cocker Spaniel gave owners a surprise after swallow toy egg (Image: Vets4Pets)
Things looked bleak for cheeky Chester the cocker spaniel when he became seriously ill shortly after his littermate had died from the dread disease. With the blue roan spaniel becoming increasingly sick and with a lump developing in his stomach, owner Rebecca Harding feared the worst. Only after vets carried out a scan and immediate surgery did she discover the reason for his ill health – he had eaten a Kinder Surprise chocolate egg and also gulped down the plastic toy inside.
Easter is one of the busiest periods of the year for vets with huge amounts of chocolate available and greedy dogs only too willing to have a feast on the potentially deadly confectionary. Chocolate contains both caffeine and theobromine, two substances that can have seriously adverse effects on a dog’s heart, central nervous system and kidneys.
Yet it was the fear that eight year old Chester was suffering from cancer that saw him undergoing emergency treatment for the sinister lump at Vets4Pets in Northampton. After the operation vet Jenny Millington was able to present the cause of the dog’s mystery illness.
Speaking from her home in Northampton after the family pet’s full recovery, owner Ms Harding explained: “As a family we were so worried about Chester, particularly as we had lost his sister. We’ve had him since he was a puppy and he’s part of the family, so losing him would have been devastating.
“After the operation, I was expecting the worst, but when Jenny told me it was a Kinder Surprise toy, and I was speechless. My children hadn’t eaten Kinder Surprise eggs for years, but then I remembered my eldest had bought one about six weeks before his operation.
“Chester, like most spaniels, is a very inquisitive dog, so he must have sniffed it out from somewhere and eaten it while no one was around.”
The Kinder Surprise egg removed by vets (Image: Vets4Pets)
X-ray shows where the Kinder Surprise egg was inside Chester's body (Image: Vets4Pets)
Plastic Kinder Surprise toy inside swallowed chocolate egg (Image: Vets4Pets)
Medical images released by Vets4Pets reveal the position of the plastic toy egg – measuring 4cm by 3cm – inside Chester and how it had remained intact despite passing through the digestive system.
Vet Millington explained the veterinary team’s concerns when Chester became ill.
She said: “We’ve known Chester and Rebecca for many years, so it was worrying to see him so unwell, and the scan showing the obstruction was obviously a concern. During the operation it was quite a surprise for the surgical team to see the reason for his illness, but also a relief knowing the long-term prospects for him were better than previously thought.
“It must have been really uncomfortable for him and, of course, the implications for Chester could have been really serious, if we’d not operated when we had done. It took just over an hour to remove the ‘tumour’ and it was amazing to see it intact after potentially weeks inside Chester.
“We’ve helped a number of dogs after they have swallowed something they shouldn’t have, but this was the first Kinder Surprise toy we’ve found.”
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Chester sitting up and behaving after making full recovery (Image: Vets4Pets)
There were fears Chester may have had cancer when he was taken ill (Image: Vets4Pets)
Chocolate is the main cause of poisoning in dogs, with the threat at Easter only second to Christmas as the most fraught period for vets dealing with sickly animals. Signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs are vomiting, diarrhoea, increased heart rate and temperature along with rapid breathing. Untreated, it can cause seizures and cardiac failure.
Dr Huw Stacey, director of clinical services at Vets4Pets, said: “We want to make sure that the 8.5 million dogs in the UK are safe from chocolate this Easter.
“Whether it’s caused by owners giving their pet an Easter egg as a present or, as in Chester’s case, the chocolate is accidentally left within their reach, we see an influx of pets suffering from chocolate poisoning at this time of year.
“Chocolate is particularly toxic to dogs, as it contains caffeine and theobromine, two substances that dogs are incredibly sensitive to. Unlike humans, dogs find it difficult to break down and excrete these substances. This means they can easily build-up in the dog’s system and lead to poisoning.”
Dr Stacey added: “In order for owners and their pets to enjoy a happy Easter together, the best option is to keep all chocolate out of their reach and give them an animal-friendly treat instead, like a dental chew or even special dog friendly ‘chocolate’ treats.
“Although there aren’t as many cases of chocolate poisoning for cats, rabbits and rodents, they can all still suffer from health issues after digesting chocolate. If you suspect your pet has eaten chocolate, then it is always safest to take them straight to the nearest veterinary practice for a check over.”