PET owners in Hampshire are being warned of the dangers of feeding their animals potentially fatal chocolate Easter Eggs.

Figures released by the British Vetinary Association (BVA) revealed that almost half of vets (45 per cent) treated at least on case of the chocolate poisoning last Easter - with those in the South East treating almost two cases of the complaint each.

Chocolate can be hazardous to pets as it contains theobromine, a naturally occurring chemical found in cocoa beans, which dogs and other animals digest much less effectively than humans.

The effects of chocolate poisoning in dogs, which are most commonly affected, usually appear within 12 hours and can last up to three days.

They range from excessive thirst, vomiting, and diarrhoea, to restlessness to fits, heartbeat irregularities and some cases can result in coma or death.

BVA President Sean Wensley said: “Easter is great fun for all the family but it’s easy to accidentally leave something tempting lying around that a pet might find too hard to resist. Dogs, in particular, have a keen sense of smell and will easily win at any Easter egg hunt so wherever chocolate is being stored – inside or outside – make sure it is pet proof and out of reach of inquisitive noses to avoid an emergency trip to the vet."