Easter is a great time to celebrate with family, but if you have pets, there are a few extra things you might want to think about if you want to keep them happy, healthy, and safe.
Decorating can be dangerous
Some of the plants and flowers that are commonly placed around the house and on tables this time of year can cause some serious problems for your pets. A few of the more common, and more dangerous, Easter-associated plants & flowers are listed below, but for a more extensive list of poisonous plants and flowers – and some nontoxic alternatives check out Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants on the ASPCA's webpage.
- Some of the plants and flowers that are commonly placed around the house and on tables at Easter can cause some serious problems for your pets.
- A few things in the typical Easter basket can seriously harm your pets.
- During the holidays, our pets are more likely to find a way to sneak a “forbidden snack.”
The beautiful Easter lily is one of the most dangerous flowers you can have around your cats. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most common flowers found in homes around this holiday. It, along with several of the other varieties of ‘true lilies,’ will easily put your cats into acute kidney failure. This devastating and often fatal condition can happen even if your cat takes only a small nibble on one or two petals. It can also happen when your cat grooms lily pollen off of their fur or paws. Given the high risk and the devastating consequences, the safest thing you can do is to keep these lilies out of homes with cats. The danger they pose to your cat’s health is far greater than the beauty they can add to your decorating. Please see this
important article for more on the dangers lilies pose to cats.
These plants are often found at gardening centers and supermarkets, so they can easily end up in and around homes this time of year. The highest risk to pets comes from eating the roots, though the flowers themselves can cause problems, too. Small bites may cause vomiting, drooling, and diarrhea, while eating a larger amount can result in heart rhythm abnormalities, seizures, and even death.
Pets that eat part of the beautiful Amaryllis plant can suffer vomiting, drooling, and abdominal pain. In some cases, they may even develop a sudden drop in blood pressure or breathing problems. Though all parts of the plant are toxic, the bulb, which is often exposed in these plants, is the most dangerous part for your pet.
Hazards of the Easter basketWhether you’re planning to give your pet their own basket this Easter, or they just decide to help themselves to one meant for someone else, it’s important to be aware that there are a few things in the typical Easter basket that can seriously harm your pets.
Hopefully you are aware of the dangers that chocolate poses to your pets, but be aware that it’s not the only sweet treat that can do them harm. Many sugar-free gums and candies now contain xylitol, a sugar substitute that, though it may be beneficial for people with diabetes and a high risk of cavities, is highly toxic to dogs. Even a small amount of xylitol can cause a steep drop in your dog’s blood sugar, leading to seizures, and possible coma or death. At slightly higher doses, xylitol can put your dog into liver failure from which they are unlikely to recover, even with intensive veterinary care. Ingestion of any candy should lead to an immediate call to your veterinarian or one of the animal-specific poison control centers, and should be considered very harmful until informed otherwise by a veterinarian or a certified technician.
Though they don’t exactly ‘scream’ Easter, some people put little boxes of raisins in their Easter baskets. If you have dogs in the house, this could prove to be a very unhealthy decision. Raisins, grapes, and currants, can cause acute kidney failure in some dogs. We in the veterinary profession still do not know what it is in these fruits that is responsible for this toxicity, nor do we know why some dogs are susceptible, while others are not. What we do know though, is that kidney failure is debilitating, expensive to treat, and often fatal. Keep raisins, as well as grapes and currants, well away from your dogs.
This common filler of Easter baskets is often too tempting a ‘toy’ for pets to stay away from, particularly cats. When ingested, Easter grass has a high likelihood of causing irritation or obstruction of your pet’s intestines. Such digestive problems will likely result in a decrease in energy level and appetite, as well as vomiting and diarrhea. And while the irritation may resolve with at-home care, it just might require several days in the vet hospital, too. Any obstruction, on the other hand, will most certainly require surgery to correct. This means a stay in the hospital for your pet, and a bill typically upwards, and sometimes well upwards, of $1,000 for you. See this article for more information about such linear foreign body obstructions.
Whether chocolate, plastic, or real, the eggs found in Easter baskets can cause a variety of problems for your pets. While the dangers of chocolate are well known, the dangers of plastic and real eggs may be less obvious.
Plastic eggs can cause digestive and respiratory tract irritation or obstruction when swallowed or inhaled. Broken pieces of these eggs can also lead to cuts on your pet’s paws and in their mouth. Hardboiled eggs often cause digestive issues when dogs sniff out and eat the eggs leftover from the egg hunt.
For your pet’s safety, and your kid’s entertainment, consider writing down where you hid all the eggs, and then be sure they’ve all been collected before heading in for dinner. Speaking of which…
Cooking with care
Many of the foods we safely eat can cause problems for our pets – sometimes even in small quantities. It’s important to be particularly aware around the holidays as there is often so much commotion going on that our pets are more likely to find a way to sneak a “forbidden snack,” or find a soft-hearted sucker to give into their pleading eyes. Below are some common Easter table foods and how they can be
problematic for your pets.
The main problem with the typical pork roast is the amount of fat it contains, as many pets will develop digestive upset from eating excessively fatty foods. Some pets, including miniature schnauzers and certain other breeds, obese pets, and those with chronic pancreatitis, are at an even higher risk of such digestive upset. Fat isn’t the only problem with pork roast, though. Few pets are willing and able to resist the chance to play with (and eat) the twine that often holds these cuts of meat together. When eaten, this twine can obstruct your pet’s digestive tract, so be sure to dispose of this string safely.
The dangers of ham are much the same as those mentioned above for the pork roast, with one more thrown in for good measure… the salt. Most hams have a high enough salt content to lead to neurologic problems for pets that eat a large enough quantity. Of course, the amount that will define a “large enough” quantity will vary for each pet based on a number of factors. So it’s just best to play it safe and avoid sharing the Easter ham with your pets, and be sure to ask your guests to do the same.
Bread and rolls
Here it isn’t necessarily the finished product that poses a risk to your pets, but rather the uncooked dough that could result in an emergency trip to the vet. When pets (typically dogs) eat uncooked dough containing live yeast, they can suffer a variety of debilitating and potentially fatal problems as the live yeast becomes “active” in the warm, moist environment of their stomach. Much as it would do when rising appropriately in a cupboard or oven, the active yeast converts the sugars in the dough to carbon dioxide and alcohol. The carbon dioxide expands the stomach to the point of discomfort and blocks the return of blood to the heart, resulting in a state of true shock. The alcohol causes a variety of metabolic problems, or what would more commonly be thought of as ‘alcohol poisoning.’ In some instances, the expanding dough can result in an obstruction of the stomach, which may require surgery. Given all these potential problems, it really is best to let your bread dough rise on a high shelf, in the microwave, or in a closed oven, rather than on the kitchen counter.
Overall, keeping your pets out of the kitchen when preparing the Easter feast and well away from the table once the food comes out will help the whole family have a comfortable, enjoyable meal. Check out our article for tips on how to teach your dog not to counter surf and stay out of the kitchen, or set up a safe space for your dog where they can hang out safely while you have Easter guests coming and going.