Thousands of dogs could be fatally poisoned this Christmas by gobbling down festive chocolate treats left lying around by their owners, new research has shown.
By the end of 2016 an estimated 6,609 dogs in the UK will have suffered chocolate poisoning, with over a quarter of cases (27 per cent) expected in December alone.
Reported cases of chocolate poisoning have also leapt by an estimated 25 per cent since 2015, according to figures from a leading pet insurance company.
The effects of chocolate poisoning - just one of the perils facing pooches this Christmas - are very serious and can be extremely dangerous to dogs, warn vets.
Chocolate contains theobromine - a stimulant similar to caffeine - which is highly toxic to dogs.
Small amounts of chocolate may only cause an upset stomach, but a large quantity can prove fatal.
According to insurance provider www.AnimalFriends.co.uk, which commissioned the research, the average cost of treatment for chocolate poisoning in dogs is £297.
Westley Pearson, Claims & Marketing Director at Animalfriends.co.uk commented: "If your dog has consumed a small amount of chocolate, you may find they experience vomiting or diarrhoea, either immediately or over the few hours after ingestion.
"Vomiting is a good sign, as it means your dog is getting rid of the poison, however you should still take your pet to your local vet.
"If your dog has eaten an excessive amount of chocolate, they may experience a feeling of restlessness and a sense of increased energy.
"This is followed by tremors, weakness and balance problems.
"It's very important that as soon as your dog has eaten the chocolate, you get them examined by a vet.
"Symptoms such as seizures, muscle spasms and even comas can occur as a result of chocolate poisoning, so take every precaution you can."
The figures were calculated using data on the number of chocolate-related claims filed to Animal Friends which was then extrapolated across the UK dog population.
Chocolate isn't the only danger to your dog this Christmas.
Here is a list of the top things that can harm your pet over the festive period:
Bones - Even when cooked, animal bones can become brittle and splinter, causing severe internal issues for your pets. Turkey bones are especially dangerous as they're hollow, meaning that they splinter whether cooked or raw.
Christmas Cake and Mince Pies - While humans love them, Christmas pies and cakes contain dried fruit such as raisins, which are toxic to dogs and can make them seriously ill. Not to mention the fact that they are usually extremely high in fat and possibly alcohol, which is a no-no for your furry friend.
Nuts - Nuts have become a Christmas favourite, but not only could these be a choking hazard for your dog, but some nuts can cause them to suffer from vomiting and diarrhoea. Smaller dogs are particularly susceptible to stomach upset or obstruction when consuming nuts such as walnuts or pecans.
Christmas tree - You should ensure that your tree is secured properly, as they are commonly knocked over by dogs and climbed by cats, which can potentially result in injury.
Pine needles - Ideally these should be cleaned up as soon as they drop because they can become embedded in paws and if left untreated may cause an infection.
Seasonal plants - Decorative Christmas plants like Mistletoe and Holly will give your dog extreme intestinal problems and abdominal pain if eaten, so should be kept well away from pets.
Tinsel and ribbons - While they look great draped over our picture frames, if decorations such as tinsel are eaten by our pets, they will not only cause stomach problems but your pet could choke on them, so keep them out of reach.