As Easter festivities are rapidly approaching, please be aware that some of the common materials can be dangerous and even deadly for both dogs and cats. Here are a few things to watch out for to help keep this holiday fun and safe for your cherished companions.
Chocolate contains 3 materials that can be harmful to pets: fat, caffeine, and theobromine. Dark chocolate contains higher levels of theobromine. Fat can irritate the Pancreas--see the section on people food below. Both theobromine and caffeine can cause an increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and trigger symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, anxiety, hyperactivity, increased thirst, panting, increased urination, gait abnormalities, and exaggerated reflexes. If chocolate intoxication is not treated within 3-6 hours, it can lead to heart failure, seizures, coma, and possibly death. Treatment includes hospitalization on IVs, monitoring, and possibly several days of care.
Many gums and candies contain the artificial sweetener Xylitol, which is highly toxic to dogs. Low blood sugar is the most critical issue; but it also causes signs of digestive upset including vomiting, diarrhea, and low appetite. Within 30 minutes of consumption, canines can show low energy and weakness, that are triggered by the drop in sugar levels. This toxin can trigger liver disease, electrolyte imbalances, clotting problems, and death. Only a small amount of this chemical will cause problems. A 10 lb dog will need medical care if it consumes 2 pieces of gum with Xylitol. Treatment includes IVs, dextrose, possible induction of vomiting, and monitoring glucose levels for several days.
Basket grass is not digestible, and can lead to chocking, blockages, intestinal twists, perforations, and other intestinal upsets including vomiting and diarrhea. If you see some of this material hanging out of your pet's hind end, do not pull on it, as this can cause intestinal tears. Gently cut the end that is hanging out, and monitor routinely. Foil wrappers from candy can also cause chocking, blockages, and digestive upset. Keep plastic eggs and small toys out of reach as these can also cause blockages and other digestive problems. Surgery is the main way that blockages are resolved. Intestinal tissue can easily be harmed when obstructions are present, and often tissue needs to be removed if it is not viable.
All parts of the Easter Lily are toxic to cats. This plant can cause kidney failure rapidly, and even cause death if not treated promptly. A feline will usually start to vomit shortly after ingestion. Other signs include poor appetite and lethargy. If a cat is not treated within 2-3 hours of consumption, the kidney damage becomes irreversible. A cat that has consumed Easter lily material will require IVs, blood monitoring, and several days of treatment.
Please use great caution with giving your pet samples from the dinner feast. Any foods that are spicy and/or high in fat can trigger Pancreatitis. This literally means inflammation of the Pancreatic tissue, and causes signs similar to food poisoning. Your dog or cat can show vomiting, diarrhea, low energy, poor appetite, tenderness at the abdomen, and more. It can be quite serious leading to significant dehydration and even death. Most cases require hospitalization with IVs and other medications for several days.
Please also watch out for access to chicken bones, and make sure your garbage containers are tightly sealed. Make sure you retrieve all of the hard boiled eggs from the Easter Egg Hunt. Dogs will find these very appealing, and can get very sick if the eggs go bad.
Give your pets a quiet area that they can escape to. Some pets become very anxious when there are several visitors and/or loud noises. Your pet may benefit from sedatives. Discuss this with your veterinarian. Depending on how your companion handles festivities, you may decide to keep your pets with a friend, or hold the party at a different location.
Take care when considering the purchase of bunnies, chicks, ducklings, and other pets that are highly marketed at this time of year. Make sure when considering adding a new companion that you are prepared for the care requirements of these pets for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, many of these cute pets are purchased on impulse, and soon find their way into animal shelters once the mystique wears off.
For those of you that celebrate Easter, I wish you a wonderful holiday.