Easter Hazards – Protect Your Pets

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Easter is almost here, and with it bunnies, eggs and chocolate are popping up everywhere!  Although most of us know the dangers associated with chocolate, additional risks to your pets include fatty foods, decorations, certain plants, Easter baskets, picnics, parties, egg hunts and parades!  Don’t let your pet become one of the thousands that are injured or become ill due to unforeseen dangers of this joyous holiday. 

Chocolate can be deadly as it is very toxic to dogs and cats.  Even a small amount can cause disastrous, even fatal consequences.  Chocolate contains methylxanthine alkaloids in the form of theobromine and caffeine.  These ingredients cause constriction of arteries, increased heart rate and central nervous system stimulation.  This can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness and increased urination and can eventually cause excitability, increased respiration and heartbeat, stiffness, seizures and exaggerated reflexes.  Baking chocolate has the highest levels of this alkaloid, while white chocolate has the lowest.  A potential lethal dose for a 15 pound dog is only one pound of milk chocolate, and he would need far less baking or semi-sweet chocolate.  If your pet does not receive medical attention within four to six hours after ingestion, cardiac failure, seizures, coma and even death can occur.  Below are the toxicity levels of different types of chocolate:

  • Baking Chocolate – This type of chocolate has the highest concentration of theobromine and caffeine.  Pets only need to ingest a small amount to cause serious illness or death.  Mild signs of toxicity occur when only 0.1 ounce per pound of body weight is ingested.  Severe signs occur with 0.3 ounces per pound of body weight.  A 10 pound cat or dog would need to ingest only 1 ounce of baking chocolate to cause toxicity.
  • Semi-sweet Chocolate/Instant Cocoa – Mild signs of toxicity can occur when 1/3 ounce per pound of body weight is ingested.  Severe signs occur when 1 ounce per pound of body weight is eaten.  
  • Milk Chocolate – Mild signs of toxicity can occur when 0.7 ounces per pound of body weight is ingested.  Severe signs occur with 2 ounces per pound of body weight.
  • White Chocolate – Because it contains the least amount of theobromine, this version has the lowest form of toxicity.  Mild cases can occur with the ingestion of 45 ounces per pound of body weight.  To cause a serious problem a 10 pound dog or cat would have to ingest 27 pounds of white chocolate.

Even if your Easter basket doesn’t contain chocolate, many other candies contain Xylitol (a sugar substitute) which is highly toxic and can cause seizures or even death.  If raisins are included in your Easter basket, make sure your dog cannot get to them because grapes, raisins and currants can cause acute kidney failure.  

Although beautiful to look at, some plants can be deadly for our pets.  Every year cat owners bring lilies into their homes, unaware of the dangers that await their pet.  Curious by nature, hundreds of cats get violently sick and even die from exploring and ingesting these delicate, traditional Easter flowers.  Lilies that are toxic to cats include the Easter lily, Tiger lily, Rubrum lily, Japanese show lily and some species of the Day lily.  All parts of these lily plants are considered toxic and can cause kidney failure and death in cats.  The best way to avoid lily toxicity is to bring home a safer alternative, such as Easter orchids, Easter cactus, Easter daisies or violets.   As of this time, no toxicity has been reported in dogs. 

Holiday foods should not be given to your pets!  Ham is very salty and both ham and pork roasts are very high in fat.  Serious stomach upset or pancreatitis can result from eating either of these foods.  Avoid leaving leftovers on counters as pets will climb to get just a taste of that rich meal.  Any strings or wrappings should be disposed of outside in the trash can immediately.  Pets may swallow the tasty packaging, which could result in a fatal outcome.  Instead of giving your pet’s table scraps, give them their regular food, treats and lots of love!  Educate visitors and guests on the dangers of giving table scraps to your pets. 

Decorations can be deadly for our pets!  Plastic grass, plastic toys, and candy (foil wrapper and all) are extremely dangerous for your pets.  Abdominal surgery is usually required to remove these items because once ingested they can become lodged in the stomach or intestines. 

Please remember that although many of us enjoy entertaining guests and having parties, most pets shy away from these activities.  Before things get too hectic for your pets, put them in a spare room with some of their toys and a comfortable place to lie down.  Calming aids may also be useful, such as the Sentry Calming Diffuser Kit or the ThunderShirt.  Your pet will not only feel safer and more relaxed, but he/she won’t be able to accidentally escape out the front door or get table scraps from visitors.  Try to keep your pet on their regular schedule for feeding, exercise and potty breaks.  Give your pets plenty of attention and have a happy, safe Easter!

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Renee Jones-Lewis is a certified professional dog trainer, having received instruction from canine behaviorist Dr. Pamela Reid, plus nationally acclaimed trainers: Patricia McConnell, Pia Silvani, and Jean Donaldson, to name a few. She serves as a Pet Marketing and Canine Specialist for JeffersPet and JeffersPet.com.

Questions about this article, training or non-emergent health concerns are welcome. Renee can be reached most weeks from 9am – 5pm Central Time (Mon-Fri) at 1-800-JEFFERS (533-3377) ext 381 or by email at rsjones@jefferspet. com.
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Information given here is meant to be helpful and/or educational. It is, in no way, intended to supersede, challenge or supplant the diagnosis, treatment or advice of a licensed veterinarian.



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