Easter Safety

Paranoid vets ringing the Easter alarm bells again.

Lock up your dogs and cats. The Easter Bunny is on the loose, leaving a trail of toxic treats that could kill them or at least make them really sick.

Maybe veterinarians overdo it, giving poor E. Bunny and his Christmas counterpart Claus a bad rap, but we see so many sick animals during the holidays that a bit of healthy paranoia doesn’t seem out of line. If our repeated warnings save one pet, all the alarm clanging will be worth it.

First, let’s talk chocolate. If my husband was a dog, even a big one, he’d have been hospitalized two or three times this week, having demolished several large bars of chocolate containing at least 85 per cent cocoa. Tim loves dark chocolate and that’s usually the stuff that kills, particularly the baking variety. Fortunately, the human body eliminates cocoa more effectively than the canine model, so I’m not likely to be widowed by the Easter Bunny. Even milk chocolate can poison a small dog.

No matter what type of cocoa is involved, keep the Easter goodies locked away from your dog or vice versa. To be safe, do the same for cats, although they don’t tend to eat it often. Felines lack the taste buds to detect sweetness and, therefore, don’t see what all the fuss is about with chocolate.
On the other hand, cats love to munch on plants. It’s a strange phenomenon in a carnivorous animal and one that spells trouble when the vegetation of interest is toxic. Easter lilies are highly poisonous to cats. Just a few mouthfuls can cause kidney failure. Although some plants bearing the name, such as Peace Lilies, are not members of the same toxic family, it’s safest to keep all lilies out of homes with cats.

Are you weight conscious and buying only sugar-free treats this Easter? If they contain the sweetener xylitol, they too can kill your dog. Xylitol is most often found in sugar-free mints and gums.

And, even if you’ve managed to keep the Easter basket goodies out of your pets’ mouths, don’t stop there. That fake grass lining the basket is ideally designed to create a nasty bowel blockage.

Another potential Easter danger is more of a problem for people than pets. Dr. Scott Weese, an infectious disease specialist and associate professor at the Ontario Veterinary College, recently published an article on his “Worms and Germs” blog about the hazards of handling baby chicks. They are a common source of salmonella infection particularly in young children.

I wish it wasn’t necessary to warn about the risks of salmonella exposure from Easter chicks. Baby chicks or bunnies bought for instant entertainment at Easter generally suffer through ignorance of nutritional and housing needs or, worse, from neglect. Don’t teach your children that animals are disposable toys.

For information about chocolate, xylitol or lily toxicity contact your veterinary clinic or check out the Pet Poison Helpline’s website.

Dr. Fiona Gilchrist
Hillcrest Animal Hospital – Trenton/Quinte West, Ontario
March 2013