Healthy Paws Pet Insurance and Foundation.

Top 5 Easter Hazards for Dogs and Cats

Easter is a wonderful time of year for celebrating. It’s a fabulous time to enjoy our families and friends, including our furred companions, but with the festivities comes a multitude of potential dangers for pets. Fortunately, all of these possible hazards can easily be avoided with some precaution, tips and substitutions.

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Chocolate

Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine. These are methylxanthine compounds that can be harmful to dogs, cats and other pets. Indiscriminate eaters, often dogs, are the most likely to experience chocolate toxicities.

Since symptoms are dose dependent, smaller animals and young animals are at particular risk for chocolate toxicities. Please note that unborn and nursing offspring can also be affected by chocolate ingestion by the mother.

Initial signs may include

  • Frequent urination
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Restlessness

As the toxicity worsens the animal may experience

  • Hyperactivity
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Collapse

Chocolate has negative effects on the nervous system as well as the cardiac and respiratory systems. Death from chocolate toxicosis is typically due to irregular heartbeats, known as arrhythmias, or respiratory failure.

Tips to Avoid Problem

  • Keep all chocolate out of reach of pets, including things like cocoa powder, beans, hulls, baking, dark, milk, white, and all other forms of chocolate.
  • If pets can reach the Easter baskets, consider keeping any chocolate separate.

Tips to Help Your Pet

  • Call the veterinarian right away if your pet has eaten chocolate. He or she can help determine if your pet is in danger and recommend a course of action.
  • Keep the wrapper and ingredient list from the box. Try to estimate how much the animal ate. Base any estimate on the worst case scenario.
  • Symptoms typically appear six to 12 hours after ingestion, but treatment can begin much sooner.
  • If unable to reach your veterinarian or the drive is long, consider calling the Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.

Easter Grass

Easter grass is shiny and sparkly and makes a great crunching sound. Many pets enjoy playing with this plastic concoction, but when ingested, Easter grass can quickly become deadly. Cats are most likely to ingest the grass, but puppies are also candidates.

The grass has the potential to pass without incident, but in an unlucky few it can also become stuck in the gastrointestinal tract, causing what’s known as a linear foreign body. Linear foreign bodies can impair an animal’s ability to eat, digest or defecate. Perforation or the traumatic opening of the bowel into the abdomen can also occur. This is an emergency.

Signs include

  • Vomiting
  • Straining to defecate
  • Abdominal pain
  • Not eating
  • Diarrhea, sometimes with blood
  • Listlessness or depression

Any of the above signs will also cause significant changes to the animal’s body and physiology over time. If perforation has occurred, the animal is at risk for severe complications that include inflammation of the thoracic or abdominal cavity, sepsis and death.

Tips to Avoid Problem

  • Consider using an alternative to Easter grass. Shredded paper or real grass are aesthetic options.

Tips to Help Your Pet

  • Sometimes Easter grass may be seen wrapped around the base of the tongue or coming out of the anus. Do not pull! Seek veterinary attention. The grass may be wrapped around other unseen parts of the gastrointestinal tract and pulling may cause significant injury and trauma.

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Easter Lilies

Every part of an Easter lily, including the flower, is toxic to cats. Ingesting less than one full leaf can lead to severe toxicosis. Easter lilies do not appear to be toxic in dogs or most other common pets.

Signs include

  • Vomiting
  • Inappetance (not eating)
  • Lethargy
  • Kidney failure
  • Death

The first signs of toxicity typically occur within the first two hours after eating the plant. Vomiting may stop after about 12 hours, but as the toxin starts to affect the cat’s kidneys, the anorexia and depression will worsen. Kidney failure will lead to death.

Tips to Avoid Problem

  • Avoid Easter lilies in a home with cats.

Tips to Help Your Pet

  • Call your veterinarian immediately.
  • Ingestion of an Easter lily by a cat is a medical emergency. Cats that are not treated within 18 hours after exposure are likely to die from renal failure.
  • Cats that do receive aggressive and early medical intervention may be successfully treated!

Teeny, Tiny Easter Toys

The plastic eggs hugely popular in Easter hunts and Easter baskets often contain small objects that pose a threat to our pets. Teeny, tiny toys and little objects that will fit into plastic eggs are potential foreign bodies when ingested.

A foreign body can be anything that has gone into the body that does not belong there. Foreign bodies cause problems when they either get stuck or expose a body to a chemical or toxin. Older pennies made with lead are an example of the latter. Foreign bodies are typically ingested and found in the gastrointestinal system, although they may also be aspirated and found in the airways.

Signs vary dramatically depending on

  • Location of the foreign body
  • Duration the object has been inside the pet
  • Material or chemicals found in the foreign body
  • If there is obstruction

Some foreign bodies will pass through the body, but others may become lodged or stuck which can cause severe distress. Sometimes foreign bodies can be removed via endoscopy, but surgery may also be necessary.

Tips to Avoid Problem

  • The use of small crackers or pretzels is a valid non-toxic, edible alternative for filling plastic eggs, but please note that some dogs may become even more interested in eggs containing food items. The eggs themselves can become sharp, hard foreign bodies when ingested.
  • Keep any toys that could pose a hazard out of the reach of pets. Common small toys that cause problems are Legos, magnets and coins.
  • Don’t play or tease pets with any of these small toys. Bouncy balls and shiny wrappings are hard for most dogs and some cats to resist.
  • Consider paper-based toys or other objects made from substances that can pass easily.

Tips to Help Your Pet

  • Act sooner, rather than later. The longer the foreign boy is inside the animal, the higher the likelihood of complications from obstruction and the more difficult the removal.
  • If an object that has been ingested is detected in the stomach before it moves into the intestines, it may be able to me removed using endoscopy.
  • Serial radiographs can help determine the location of the foreign body, and if it is progressing towards passing out of the body.

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Human Medications

Holidays often bring out of town family and friends. Some may bring prescription and over the counter medications that can be harmful to pets. Some of the most common are antidepressants, birth control, pain relievers like acetaminophen, or anti-inflammatories, ADD/ADHD medications, and sleep aids.

Clinical signs vary depending on the substance ingested.

Tips to Avoid Problem

  • Keep all medications out of reach in a medicine cabinet or lock box.
  • Ask visitors to please keep all packed medications away from pets.

Tips to Help Your Pet

  • If anything has been ingested, call your veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center immediately.

First Photo Credit: NICK.BLACK.GR via Compfight cc
Third Photo Credit: Fido the Cat via Compfight cc
Fifth Photo Credit: Carolineyea via Compfight cc

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