Easter is just around the corner and, if you’ve got pets, there are a few extra things you might want to think about if you want to keep them happy, healthy, and safe as you prepare to host the family for dinner and the traditional egg hunt.
Beautiful can prove deadly
Some of the plants and flowers that commonly adorn tables at this time of year can cause some serious problems for your pets. A few of the more common, and more dangerous, Easter-associated plants & flowers are listed below, but for a more extensive list of poisonous plants and flowers – and some non-toxic alternatives – click here. If you want to keep your pets happy, healthy, and safe, and avoid an emergency trip to the pet ER this holiday, keep an eye out for these common Easter plants and flowers.
The beautiful and ubiquitous Easter lily is one of the most dangerous flowers you can have around your cats. It, along with several of the other varieties of ‘true lilies’, will easily put your cats into acute kidney failure. This devastating and often fatal condition can happen even if your cat takes only a small nibble on one or two petals, and it can happen when your cat grooms lily pollen off of their fur or paws or drinks the water from the vase, too. Given the high risk and the devastating consequences, the safest thing you can do is to keep these lilies out of and away from homes with cats. The danger they pose to your cat’s health is far greater than the beauty they can add to your decorating. Click here to read my previous post on the dangers of lilies for cats.
These plants are easily found at gardening centers and supermarkets, hence their common presence in and around homes this time of year. The highest risk to pets comes from eating the tubers, though the flowers themselves can cause problems for Fluffy and Fido, too. Small exposures may cause vomiting, drooling, and diarrhea, while the larger quantity ingestions can result in heart rhythm abnormalities, seizures, and even death. For my previous blog post on cyclamen, click here.
Common at Easter (and Christmas), pets that eat parts of the beautiful Amaryllis plant can suffer vomiting, drooling, and abdominal pain. In some cases they may even develop a sudden drop in blood pressure or breathing problems. Though all parts of the plant are toxic, the bulb, which is often exposed in these plants, is the most dangerous part for your pet.
Hazards of the Easter basket
Maybe you’re planning to give your pet’s their own basket this Easter, or maybe they will just decide to help themselves to one meant for someone else? Regardless of how they may get access to one, it’s important to be aware that there are a few things in the typical Easter basket that can harm your pets (and your pocketbook, too).
Hopefully you are aware of the dangers that chocolate poses to your pets, but be aware that it’s not the only sweet treat that can do them harm. Many sugar-free gums and candies now contain xylitol, a sugar substitute that is beneficial for both diabetics and people with a predisposition for cavities, but highly toxic for dogs. Even a small amount of xylitol can cause a steep drop in your dog’s blood sugar, leading to seizures, and possible coma or death. At slightly higher doses, xylitol can put your dog into liver failure from which they are unlikely to recover. Though they don’t exactly ‘scream’ Easter, some people put little boxes of raisins in their Easter baskets. If you’ve got dogs in the house though, this could prove to be a very unhealthy decision. Raisins, and the grapes from which they come, can cause acute kidney failure in some dogs. We in the veterinary profession still do not know what compound in grapes & raisins is responsible for this toxicity, nor do we know why some dogs are susceptible, while others are not. What we do know though, is that the kidney failure that results in susceptible dogs is debilitating, expensive to treat, and often fatal. Keep xylitol and raisins well away from your dogs.
This common filler of Easter baskets is often too tempting a ‘toy’ for pets to stay away from, particularly cats. When ingested, Easter grass has a high likelihood of causing irritation and/or obstruction of your pet’s intestines. Such digestive problems will likely result in a decrease in energy level and appetite, as well as bouts of vomiting and diarrhea. And while the irritation may resolve with at-home care, it just might require several days in the vet hospital, too. Any obstruction, on the other hand, will most certainly require surgery to correct. Meaning a stay in the hospital for your pet, and a bill typically upwards, and sometimes well upwards, of $1,000 for you.
Be they plastic, chocolate, or real, the eggs found in Easter baskets can cause a variety of problems for your pets. While the dangers of chocolate were mentioned above, the dangers of plastic and real eggs may be less well known to you. Plastic eggs can cause digestive and/or respiratory tract irritation or obstruction when swallowed or inhaled, respectively. Broken pieces of these eggs can also lead to cuts on your pet’s paws and in their mouth. The typical hardboiled Easter egg, on the other hand, is often associated with digestive upset when dogs sniff out and eat the overlooked hunt eggs several days later. For your pet’s safety, and your kid’s entertainment, consider writing down where you hid all the eggs, and then be sure they’ve all been collected before heading in for dinner. Speaking of which…
Keep your pets out of the kitchen when preparing the Easter feast and keep them well away from the table once the food comes out
As they are throughout the rest of the year, many of the foods we safely eat can cause problems for our pets – sometimes even in small quantities. It’s important to be particularly aware around the holidays as there is often so much commotion going on that our pets are more likely to find a way to sneak a “forbidden snack”, or find a soft-hearted sucker to give into their pleading eyes. Below are some common Easter table foods and how they can be problematic for your pets.
The main problem with the typical pork roast is the amount of fat it contains, as many pets will develop digestive upset from eating excessively fatty foods. Some pets are at even higher risk of such digestive upset. These include miniature schnauzers, obese pets, those with chronic pancreatitis, and certain others. Fat isn’t the only problem with pork roast though. Few pets are willing and able to resist the chance to play with (and eat) the twine that often holds these cuts of meat together. So be sure to dispose of this string safely to keep it from obstructing your pet’s digestive tract.
The dangers of ham are much the same as those mentioned above for the pork roast, with one more thrown in for good measure… the salt. Most hams have a high enough salt content to lead to neurologic problems for pets that eat a large enough quantity. Of course, the amount that will define a “large enough” quantity will vary for each pet based on a number of factors. So it’s just best to play it safe and avoid sharing the Easter ham with your pets, and be sure to ask your guests to do the same, too.
Bread and rolls
Here it isn’t the finished product that poses a risk to your pets, but rather the uncooked dough that could result in an emergency trip to the vet. When pets (typically dogs) eat uncooked dough containing live yeast they can suffer a variety of debilitating and potentially fatal problems as the live yeast becomes “active” in the warm, moist environment of their stomach. Much as it would do when rising appropriately in a cupboard or oven, the active yeast converts the sugars in the dough to carbon dioxide and alcohol. The resulting carbon dioxide expands the stomach to the point of discomfort and blocking the return of blood to the heart, resulting in a state of true shock. The resulting alcohol causes a variety of metabolic problems, or what would more commonly be thought of as ‘alcohol poisoning’. In some instances, the expanding dough can result in an obstruction of the stomach, which will require surgery. Given all these potential problems, it really is best to let your bread dough rise on a high shelf, in the microwave, or in your oven, rather than on the kitchen counter.
Be aware, be prepared… be Preventive!™
Jason Nicholas, BVetMed(Hons)
The Preventive Vet™
© 2012 The Preventive Vet. All Rights Reserved.