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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

Easter May Have 'Passed-Over' but Post Holiday Pet Dangers Remain

The Easter eggs have been found, basket contents were greedily consumed, children are bouncing off the walls from their candy-induced highs, and adults are feeling a sense of relief that spring’s first holiday is over. At least, this is my childhood recollection.

As an educator about all things veterinary, I strive to better inform my clients and readers to ensure that pets are not harmed in the festivities surrounding holidays like Easter and other seasonal holidays.

Flowers, Easter eggs, candy, non-digestible Easter basket contents, and other materials linger on our counters, coffee tables, and floors, and can create mild to severe sickness in our pets if consumed.

Toxic Plants

All plants harbor the potential to cause illness post-ingestion. The fibrous nature of plant material causes mechanical irritation to the digestive tract, which often manifests in gastrointestinal signs (vomit, diarrhea, or decreased appetite).

Plants belonging to the genus Lillium (Easter Lily, etc.) can cause lily poisoning in cats. All parts of the lily (flower, pollen, stems, leaves, and bulbs) can cause lethal kidney failure should your feline friend opt for a taste.

Always prioritize your pet’s safety by referencing the ASCPA’s list of Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants (for cats, dogs, and horses) before bringing or accepting the gift of a holiday plant into your home.

Never leave a pet, especially a cat, unobserved in the presence of a seasonal plant. Their curiosity nearly always wins out over your prediction that an intriguing piece of greenery will go unscathed.

Additionally, prevent your pets’ access to your household flora by keeping them out of the plant-containing room (close doors, etc.) and elevating all plants to an inaccessible height.

Easter Egg Rolls and Hunts

Although egg rolls and hunts are great family fun, these activities could put your pet at risk for toxicity. Keep your pooch out of the action, as “Fido” may gorge on the eggs intended for eager children and develop gastrointestinal upset within only a few short hours.

After the hunt is over, make sure all eggs are accounted for. A rotting egg may harbor bacteria, mold, or other substances capable of causing toxicity if consumed.

Chocolate and Other Easter Basket Contents

Chocolate bunnies, eggs, and other confectionaries contain methylxanthines, including caffeine and theobromine, which harbor toxic potential for both our canine and feline companions. These stimulants are slowly metabolized by the liver and cause mild to severe toxicity pending the type and quantity of chocolate consumed in relation to the pet’s body weight.

Baking and dark chocolate are the most dangerous, as they contain the highest quantities of methylxanthine stimulants per volume. Semisweet and milk chocolate are less dangerous, but can still be quite toxic. Chocolate-flavored products and baked goods have the lowest concentrations of stimulants.

White chocolate has no potential for stimulant-based toxicity, as it lacks both caffeine and theobromine, but gastrointestinal signs, including pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), can still appear if your pet consumes white chocolate or other seemingly innocuous Easter treats (jelly beans, marshmallow bunnies, etc.) due to the sugar, fat, alcohol, and other contents.

petMD has a Chocolate Toxicity Meter to help pet owners determine if their pet's chocolate consumption merits veterinary evaluation and treatment. Even we veterinarians are susceptible to having our own pets suffer the effects of chocolate toxicity, as I discussed in my petMD Daily Vet article, Chocolate Toxicity Hits Home.

Besides candy, the Easter basket and plastic decorative hay can be ingested and cause mechanical irritation to the stomach and intestines. Gastrointestinal distress or a foreign body obstruction of the stomach or small intestines can occur if your pet binges on the basket or grass.

During Easter and all holiday festivities, make safety a priority by educating your family members, especially children, about the dangers posed to our canine and feline companions.

If you suspect or know your pet has consumed a toxic substance, immediately contact your veterinarian. Additionally, two great resources in managing pet toxicities are the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) (888-426-4435) and the Pet Poison Helpline (855-213-6680).

Dr. Patrick Mahaney

Image: Jesse Kunerth / via Shutterstock

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