Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher
OFF THE LEASH
Easter is a wonderful holiday, whether you celebrate it for religious reasons or the coming of a new season. Even in Vermont, by the time Easter rolls around we are often looking towards warmer weather. However, like many holidays, Easter can hold several pitfalls for our pets.
When you are looking at shelves of flowers to decorate your table for Easter brunch, your eye will inevitably go towards lilies. They are named Easter lilies, for goodness sake! Did you know that lilies are extremely toxic to cats?
Lilies of all varieties are fatally toxic to cats, including Easter lilies. The leaves, flowers, stalks and even pollen can cause irreversible kidney damage. Most cats are too smart to eat flowers, but many are curious enough to rub their face on them. The amount of pollen that transfers as they groom themselves can be deadly. They also love the allure of vase water. We all know how much our cats like to knock things onto the floor, especially if they can make a watery mess. If our cats drink this water they can suffer kidney damage very quickly. Any lilies from the families Lilium or Hemerocallis are extremely toxic and should be avoided. Though lilies are beautiful, if you have cats in the house, opt for different flowers for spring decorations.
Dogs tend to have less self-control than cats, and love to explore with their mouths. They require even closer supervision. Often we have bowls of chocolate sitting around on counters, not to mention the delicious meal we prepare.
Dogs who eat a large high-fat meal are extremely prone to developing pancreatitis. This is a complicated disease that is treated with hospitalization and fluids. In day-to-day life, rotisserie chicken is the main culprit. However, on Easter we often see ham or lamb roasts with gravy. It is very easy to sneak such a meal while owners are taking coats, corralling children, setting the table or hunting for Easter eggs.
We all know that chocolate is toxic to pets, but this holiday can be a tough chocolate time of year. For instance, in our house there were times when Easter eggs were hidden and forgotten by people, only to be discovered by dogs. When I say that there were times, I mean that every single year we failed to find a couple of eggs. Plastic eggs filled with chocolate are the most toxic, though if your dog finds regular hard-boiled eggs after a couple of weeks their stomach will likely not be happy. For a basket full of goodies, dogs can also figure out ways to get to places they never imagined going before. Make sure all Easter baskets are kept well out of reach from pets.
This starts when the Easter Bunny leaves the baskets, but continues until all of the chocolate is eaten. Depending on your household, this may be a couple hours or a couple weeks. It is especially important after they are discovered and partially ravaged by kids. Make sure to discuss with your kids how important it is to keep Easter baskets out of pet territory. Remember that chocolate is also toxic to cats, though they are at least more selective. Chocolate toxicity effects can range from vomiting and diarrhea to kidney failure, seizures and death.
While it may seem counterintuitive, candy with artificial sweeteners is also very toxic. Our pets are not equipped to metabolize this, and it can cause drastic spikes in their blood sugar. In addition to life-threatening hypoglycemia, it can also cause liver failure. This includes all artificial sweeteners, including xylitol (which is found in many types of gum).
Easter baskets also often contain “Easter grass” as a decoration. Most varieties are made of plastic or metal, and can cause the same problem as tinsel. Cats love to chew, eat and play with these little colored strips. However, stringy material is very dangerous for cats when swallowed. These string foreign bodies often require surgery. If left in place, intestines can rupture and cause very serious problems. If you have cats, it is best not to use Easter grass as a decoration. If you do, keep the baskets in a cupboard or room that is not accessible to them. Easter grass that is made out of paper is the best bet if you must include it.
Finally, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is not to buy living Easter presents. These baby chicks and bunnies look cute, but require daily care for many years. Often these cute Easter presents die from improper care or end up in shelters. Unless you have a fully equipped area to keep these pets and the compliance of guardians in their care, please stick with stuffed animals. Stuffed animals are cute, require no care, and will not suffer if their owner gets bored with them after a couple of days. Even better, after you buy them they are free to maintain!
If you do end up finding yourself with a pet emergency over the holidays, your veterinarian would likely appreciate an Easter basket of their own. Leaving Easter brunch to care for a pet is part of our job description, but it does not mean that we don’t still appreciate candy. I am only kidding, I can only speak for this veterinarian….