Hidden Easter Hazards For Your Pets
Whilst overindulging during the Easter period may result in a few extra lbs for us humans, the consequences for our animal companions are much greater and much more serious. The accidental ingestion of any Easter gifts such as plants, bouquets, chocolate, treats containing chocolate, raisins or artificial sweeteners can lead to serious illness or even death for our beloved furry friends. Even the packaging our Easter gifts arrive in can be toxic or hazardous to our pets.
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in products such as chewing gum, sweets, mints, toothpaste, and mouthwash. Xylitol is harmful to dogs because it causes a sudden release of insulin in the body that leads to hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). Xylitol can also cause liver damage in dogs. Within 30 minutes after eating, the dog may vomit, be lethargic (tired), and/or be uncoordinated. However, some signs of toxicity can also be delayed for hours or even for a few days. Xylitol toxicity in dogs can be fatal if untreated. It is unknown whether xylitol is toxic to cats.
Chocolate, Coffee, and Caffeine
Chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical that is toxic to dogs in large enough quantities. Chocolate also contains caffeine, which is found in coffee, tea, and certain soft drinks. Different types of chocolate contain different amounts of theobromine and caffeine. For example, dark chocolate and baking chocolate contain more of these compounds than milk chocolate does, so a dog would need to eat more milk chocolate in order to become ill. However, even a few ounces of chocolate can be enough to cause illness in a small dog, so no amount or type of chocolate should be considered “safe” for a dog to eat. Chocolate toxicity can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, rapid or irregular heart rate, restlessness, muscle tremors, and seizures. Death can occur within 24 hours of ingestion.
Grapes and Raisins
Grapes and raisins can cause acute (sudden) kidney failure in cats and dogs. Raisins are common in hot cross buns. It is unknown what the toxic agent is in these fruits. However, clinical signs can occur within 24 hours of eating and include vomiting, diarrhoea, and lethargy (tiredness). Other signs of illness relate to the eventual shutdown of kidney functioning.
Garlic and Onions
Garlic and onions contain chemicals that damage red blood cells in cats and dogs. Affected red blood cells can rupture or lose their ability to carry oxygen effectively. Cooking these foods does not reduce their potential toxicity. Fresh, cooked, and/or powdered garlic and/or onions are commonly found in baby food, which is sometimes given to animals when they are sick, so be sure to read food labels carefully.
Macadamia nuts are common in sweets and chocolate treats. The mechanism of macadamia nut toxicity is not well understood, but clinical signs in dogs include depression, weakness, vomiting, tremors, joint pain, and pale gums. Clinical signs can occur within 12 hours after eating. In some cases, signs can resolve without treatment in 24 to 48 hours, but patient monitoring is strongly recommended.
Flowers and plants
The following plants often given as Easter gifts are toxic to our pets, in particular cats, and if ingested can lead to the following symptoms
Tulip - Intense vomiting, depression, diarrhoea, hyper salivation, drooling and lack of appetite.
Hyacinth - Intense vomiting, diarrhoea, depression and tremors.
Daffodil - Severe gastrointestinal illness, convulsions, seizures, low blood pressure and tremors.
Peace lily - Ulcers in the mouth, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Crown of Thorns - Vomiting and diarrhoea.
Amaryllis— Vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, lethargy, and tremors.
And lets not forget the packaging that these Easter treats come in which can be hazardous, poisonous or a chocking risk to our pets.
Many cases of toxicity in pets are accidental. A pet may find and chew on a package of gum or sweets, or steal food from a countertop or table. The best way to prevent this is to keep all food items in closed cabinets or in areas that are inaccessible to pets. This may be particularly difficult during Easter, when more sweets, chocolate, fruit baskets, and gifted plants or flower bouquets are around the home.
What to do if you think your pet has eaten something toxic—
Step 1 – Prevent your pet from eating any more of it.
Step 2 – Phone your local vet or one that does emergency 24-hour care.
Step 3 – Collect the relevant wrapper, packaging and/or some of the substance itself.
Step 4 – Take your pet to the vets, stay calm, and expect your pet to stay in at least overnight, potentially longer