There’s a lot to love about Easter—time with family, egg hunts, candy aplenty—but this fun-filled holiday can be hazardous to pets.
Easter is a time when you may bring different items into your home, like chocolate candies in foil wrappers, poisonous plants, and plastic objects, like eggs, toys, and synthetic grass, which can be dangerous if ingested by your pet.
Keeping potentially dangerous items out of your pet’s reach is the best way to ensure its’ safety during the holiday. Knowing the signs that your pet may have ingested something toxic is just as important.
Here are the most common Easter holiday hazards to watch out for, and the risks associated with each.
Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, as well as caffeine. Both ingredients make chocolate highly toxic to dogs. Cats may also be affected, but they generally tend to avoid sweet foods. Dark chocolate and unsweetened, bitter chocolate are the most toxic, because they contain the highest concentrations of the methylxanthines (theobromine and caffeine).
Signs your pet ingested chocolate can include hyperactivity, diarrhea, vomiting, elevated or abnormal heart rates, or even seizures. Pancreatitis is also a concern when dogs eat chocolate. Chocolate ingestion can be an emergency, so pet owners should contact their veterinarian immediately if they suspect their cat or dog has consumed chocolate.
Easter Basket Fillers
Plastic grass, plastic eggs, foil wrappings, and Easter toys are popular fillers for Easter baskets, but they may also attract pets who can chew and swallow them. The result can be obstruction in your pet’s digestive system. These items can cause serious health problems such as a mechanical obstruction, gastroenteritis, or even pancreatitis. Often, these items have to be surgically removed to save the animal’s life.
A pet who has ingested one of the above Easter basket items may exhibit vomiting, dehydration, weakness, diarrhea, weight loss, loss of appetite, pain, or bloating. Contact your veterinarian if you notice these signs.
Candies and Foods Containing Xylitol
Xylitol is a sweetener often found in sugar-free candy, sugar-free baked goods, and sugar-free gum. It can also be found in some common household items like toothpaste and vitamins. Xylitol rapidly releases insulin into a dog’s bloodstream, causing an extreme drop in blood sugar. It can also lead to liver failure and death. Interestingly, dogs are actually the only species reportedly affected by xylitol toxicity.
Lethargy, vomiting, weakness, and seizures are some signs of xylitol ingestion. “The ingestion of xylitol should be considered a medical emergency, and pet owners should contact their veterinarian or emergency center as soon as possible.
Ham, Lamb, or Other Fatty Foods
Fatty foods can lead to stomach upset, and in more serious cases, it can cause pancreatitis, which can be life threatening. Even if your pet survives, pancreatitis can cause lifelong problems. It’s also important that pet owners not give their pet ham bones or lamb bones.
Fatty foods like those listed above may cause repeated vomiting, bloating, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, dehydration, weakness, lethargy, and fever. Contact your vet immediately if you believe your pet has ingested something fatty—intensive medical care or even surgery may be required to save the animal.
Onions, Garlic, Chives, and Leeks
Onions, garlic, chives, and leeks—as well as other members of the allium family—are toxic to dogs and cats. They can cause gastroenteritis and hemolytic anemia.
Signs of ingestion of these foods may not develop for several days, but when they do, your pet could exhibit nausea, drooling, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, pale games, and increased heart and breathing rates.
Alcohol is harmful to cats and dogs because of their small size (relative to humans) and how quickly the alcohol can hit their bloodstream. This can cause a dangerous drop in blood sugar and blood temperature, which can lead to seizures and respiratory failure. All alcoholic beverages should be kept out of the reach of pets at all times.
A pet who is lethargic, drooling, vomiting, or gagging, or has disorientation or difficulty walking, may have ingested alcohol.
Lilies are highly toxic to cats and can cause kidney failure or even lead to death if not treated properly. Some ‘fake’ lilies, like lily of the valley, are also toxic to cats. All parts of the lily plant can be deadly to cats, including the leaves, pollen, flower, and even the water the lilies are stored in. Prompt treatment after ingestion is needed to save a cat. In fact, lilies are so toxic to cats, it is recommended to remove them from your home immediately if you have some.
Lily ingestion in cats can cause lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, extreme thirst, seizures, and death. Some lilies may also cause oral pain. The ingestion of lilies is a medical emergency for cats, and time is of the essence to save a cat’s life.
Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs but not usually fatal.
Look for lethargy, vomiting, wobbliness, tremors, joint stiffness, depression, and increased temperature in a dog who has ingested macadamia nuts.
Most egg dyes are safe for consumption, but it’s always a good idea to make sure that the dyes you’re using are non-toxic before you buy them. There are certain food dyes that have been found to be carcinogenic in mice, which raises some concern for pets as well. It’s best to avoid feeding your pet any item with food coloring.
While consumption of food products colored with food dye is not likely to cause an immediate adverse medical reaction, if your pet gets into a lot of food dye, contact your veterinarian or pet poison hotline immediately for advice. Although an adverse reaction is unlikely, anytime a pet shows signs of distress through repeated bouts of vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, etc., the pet owner should contact their veterinarian as well.
This article was copied/edited from an online article posted on petmd.com