Easter Can Be Dangerous for Your Pets

by Bruce W. Little, DVM

Easter Can Be Dangerous for Your Pets

Easter is a special holiday for many families. Friends and relatives come together to celebrate the Easter Season and that can create a problem for our pets if precautions are not put in place to protect your dogs and cats from harm. Americans buy more than 180 million pounds of Easter candy each year, enough to fill 4,615 dump trucks according to Newsmax Health Magazine. That includes 16 billion jelly beans specially prepared for Easter and 4 million marshmallow/chocolate peeps that include chicks and bunnies. Other than all that sugar, probably the most dangerous item in the house at Easter time for the pets is chocolate. Chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical that can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and in higher doses can cause heart beat abnormalities, tremors, seizures causing anxiety, and possibly death. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic it can be. Also, much of the Easter chocolate is wrapped in aluminum foil to keep it fresh. Dogs can smell the chocolate through the wrapper and usually will eat the entire item, foil and all. Veterinarians are frequently called upon to perform emergency surgery to remove this aluminum foil from a blocked intestine. Easter candy many times contains the artificial sweetener xylitol which is toxic to dogs and cats as well. Xylitol is used as an artificial sweetener in baked goods, chewing gum and other products and is highly toxic to dogs and cats. Xylitol is especially dangerous for dogs. It causes a significant drop in blood sugar levels in dogs leading to a coma and can cause long-term liver problems. And, all this sugar can lead to diabetes, a disease that is becoming a crisis in both dogs and cats, as well as overweight and obese pets of which more than 50% of them are. Plastic Easter eggs and the plastic grass that comes with those eggs can also cause intestinal blockage that may require surgery to correct. These plastic products seen at this time of year pose a threat to cats who eat the grass because it contains the appealing odor of the candy but is non-digestible. It is imperative to keep these products away from the pets always, but the issue seems to accelerate during the Easter Season. Be sure to place those Easter baskets in a closed cabinet out of reach for the pets. Finally, keep the Easter dinner away from the pets. Dogs love ham; however, they will overindulge on the fatty portion of the ham and it can cause vomiting and diarrhea if too much is ingested and can lead to pancreatitis. While preparing meals during these hectic Easter Season, be sure to take the pets into consideration. It is impossible to eliminate the wonderful smells that emanate from the kitchen during these festive times. Precautions must be taken to protect the pets that make up an important part of the family during these events. Sometimes pets, especially dogs, become overzealous in eating the family’s food and drink, and that can be detrimental to their health. Fat trimmings, skin and bones from the meat should be kept far out of reach of the family pets. Fat, whether cooked or raw, can cause pancreatitis while bone splinters can get lodged in your pet’s mouth, throat or intestines causing a digestive tract blockage. Poultry bones are brittle and can be especially dangerous or even fatal to animals. Twine used to hold meat together during the cooking process will contain the odors of the meat but can have a critical effect on the digestive health of your pet. If swallowed, these string products can cause blockage in the digestive tract and many times can only be relieved with surgical intervention.

Easter lilies are extremely toxic to cats. Cats seem to be attracted to plants and will chew on all parts of the plant. The leaves are poisonous, as is the stem and flower. Even the pollen of the Easter lily is poisonous to cats. Do not purchase Easter lilies if you have cats in the house. If someone gives your family an Easter lily, inform all members of the family and guests about the dangers of cats eating those plants. It is best to not have Easter lilies in the house if you have a cat. If your pet does get into any of these items, you need to call a local emergency animal hospital or pet poison control center immediately for advice.

It is never good to allow dogs or cats to access marijuana products, either raw or in baked foods. With the recent legalization of medical marijuana in many states and recreational marijuana in four states, the incidence of marijuana toxicity has increased significantly in those localities. Baked products that contain raisins, currants and grapes even in small doses, can result in kidney failure in dogs. Small quantities of alcohol consumed by pets can cause vomiting, incoordination, confusion and seizures if given in enough quantity. Open purses and suitcases of guests can be dangerous if they contain certain human medications, wrapped gifts or foods that could be toxic to dogs and cats. Remember, pets do not always have the same reaction to certain medications as humans. You must protect against your pet gaining access to garbage in the kitchen or when turned outside where they can raid the garbage cans that may contain the scraps and leftovers of the family meal. Any garbage can contain toxic bacteria such as Salmonella or coliform bacteria that can cause digestive distress, vomiting and diarrhea. Prevention is key, because in addition to being life-threatening, these problems can lead to very expensive veterinary bills. And the pet is exposed to pain and suffering due to a totally preventable condition. Plan for the protection of your pets before company arrives.

Easter season is a time when many people fall victim to the marketing ploys of feed stores, pet shops, hatcheries, and other retail outlets, that present baby chickens, ducklings, rabbits, and other animals as Easter gifts to children, spouses, and other loved ones. It is possible to purchase baby chicks that are dyed in pastel colors if you are of that persuasion. Cute little baby chicks, ducklings and bunnies grow into adult chickens, ducks, and rabbits, and require a basic level of animal husbandry skills to provide the minimum required care and nutritional levels to these “pets”. The most common issues that veterinarians see with these exotic pets involves poor husbandry and nutritional deficiencies. That is why veterinarians recommend annual health examinations, not just sick patient examinations. Owning a pet is a privilege, but the benefits of pet ownership come with responsibilities. Don’t purchase a live animal of any kind without analyzing the situation regarding the time commitment, costs for preventive healthcare and food, energy required by all family members, living environment and willingness to provide responsible management for the animal. Keep only the type and number of pets for which you can provide appropriate food, water, shelter, health care and companionship daily. Pet ownership requires a substantial investment in time and money to provide preventive health care, such as vaccinations, parasite control, grooming, and feeding. You must budget for potential emergencies that will probably come at some point in time. Obey all local ordinances including licensing, odor control, and noise control. You should plan to place your pet with another family member or rescue organization if you find you can no longer provide care for it. Do not simply turn it loose along a lonely road and expose it to various predators or expose it to being hit by a car. Consult with your veterinarian regarding the health and well-being of your pet and rely on the veterinarians and their staff to guide you on responsible pet ownership. It will make life much easier for you and your family including the pets. Especially, during this Easter Season.


Pet Poison Helpline: http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com
Telephone:1-855-289-0358
ASPCA Poison Control Center: http://www.aspca.org
Telephone: 1-888-426-4435

Bruce W. Little, DVM