Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher
OFF THE LEASH
Easter has a lot of connections, ranging from religious to secular. For me Easter is all about welcoming spring (though I’ve learned that the weather may not reflect that) and also candy. Spring colors, flowers, treats and feasts are what come to mind first. Often we will bring Easter lilies into the house, because they are obviously seasonal. What could go wrong?
Lilies of all varieties are extremely 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. It is a rare cat that is not tempted to knock a vase over and sample the water, and even a sip of the water from them is toxic. The amount of pollen that transfers as they groom themselves can be deadly. 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, pick a different type of flower. I am pretty certain that I will never again get flowers from my husband after I had a minor panic attack over finding lilies on my counter one Valentine’s Day. While this is a little sad for me, if you aren’t confident about leaving lilies out of the bouquet just skip.
Cats aren’t the only ones at risk on this holiday, but since our dogs are the typical food stealers/indiscriminate eaters, the cats often get forgotten about. This is one case where the cats have the most to lose.
Dogs who eat a large, high-fat meal are extremely prone to developing pancreatitis. This is a complicated disease that is often treated with hospitalization and fluids. What would a high-fat, tempting meal be? In staying with the theme of the season, a ham/lamb/duck roast would qualify. It is very easy to sneak such a meal while owners are taking coats, setting the kids up with puzzles, setting the table or hiding Easter eggs.
We all know that chocolate is toxic to pets, but Easter gives a chance to have baskets of it all over. All over. For instance, in our house, there were times when Easter eggs were hidden and forgotten by people, only to be discovered by dogs. Thankfully for everyone, these were typically actual eggs, so although the smell might help us find them later, our dogs were not getting poisoned.
Chocolate is so tempting that often our dogs can jump up to get it, even if it is “out of reach.” Remember that chairs, stairs and step stools can be used by our dogs as well. And remember when we talked about how cats love to knock things onto the floor? This is no exception. Make sure all Easter baskets are kept well out of reach of pets. This is especially important after they are discovered and partially ravaged by the children. Make sure and discuss with your kids how important it is to keep Easter baskets out of pet territory. Chocolate-toxicity effects can range from vomiting and diarrhea to kidney failure, seizures and death.
While it may seem strange, candy with artificial sweeteners is even more 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 to some degree, but xylitol (which is found in many types of gum) is the worst.
Easter grass is another danger that isn’t always thought about. In the same manner as tinsel, Easter grass waves in the wind, is fun to chase, and can be sparkly. Every component of it is delightful to cats, except what happens after they eat it. Lucky cats simply have some colorful poop for a few days, but unlucky cats can develop serious intestinal issues. It often requires surgical removal. Real planted grass and tissue paper are great alternatives, though, if we are honest, most kids don’t care about what is under their candy, as long as candy is there!
Finally, I cannot emphasize enough that bunnies, chickies and ducklings are not good presents. All of these animals grow up to be bigger and require a lot of care. Rabbits must have appropriate housing and food. All of these pets typically live around eight years. They become very ill without specific types of feed, nutrition and housing. Chickens and ducks grow up to excrete a lot of waste, and require years of care. While they can become wonderful pets, it is important to make sure the recipient is ready for a lifetime of commitment to their housing, feeding and veterinary needs. Once the novelty wears off, many of these animals suffer without proper care. If you aren’t sure about whether a recipient is ready, a chocolate bunny or stuffed animal is the best choice.
Remember, if you do have an Easter emergency (and are my client), it never hurts to bring your vet some marshmallow peeps or Cadbury eggs!