TRIPLER ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Hawaii -- It’s spring, and while most military communities are stuck indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are still planning to celebrate the Easter holiday at home with immediate family members and pets.
While Easter weekend can be a fun time for children, it can be a dangerous time for pets. Many pet owners are often unaware of the dangers that lurk this time of year.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Easter weekend is one of the busiest times of year for the Animal Poison Control Center. This is the result of pets getting into hazardous holiday items such as chocolate, spring plants, Easter grass, table food, and more.
“There are a lot of things that can result in toxicity,” explained Maj. Jean Rubanick, chief of Animal Health at the Public Health Command-Pacific Veterinary Health Services Directorate. “If you notice anything out of the ordinary for your pet, it is important to seek some type of veterinary advice right away.”
Rubanick warns that often pets find Easter candy hidden around the house or the yard, or get into unattended Easter baskets. Not only are the plastic eggs and grass a serious issue for pets, but so is the chocolate.
“It’s important for families to put things like dark chocolate, baker’s chocolate, and other candy up out of reach of their pets,” said Rubanick. “Chocolate is toxic to both cats and dogs. In large enough quantities it can result in an increased heart rate, cause seizures, and even be fatal.”
Candy isn’t the only food pet owners should avoid. Other toxic items include macadamia nuts, grapes, and raisins.
“For dogs in particular, grapes and raisins specifically, can result in kidney disease,” said Rubanick “Nobody knows why this happens, and not all dogs have the same reactions, but it is important to just avoid those items.”
Rubanick points out that while most holiday foods are not toxic to pets, eating table foods can result in gastrointestinal distress or other serious issues.
“Historically, chicken bones have a reputation for being really bad for dogs, and that just tends to be because they can splinter and can cause perforation,” explained Rubanick. “When cats and dogs eat a bunch of stuff that they are not used to it can cause other serious issues like vomiting or diarrhea.”
While holiday foods tend to be the largest safety concern for pets, common spring time plants such as sago palms and Easter lilies can also be extremely toxic and harmful.
“Sago palms are very dangerous for dogs, if ingested they can cause liver failure,” said Rubanick. “For lilies, you are not going to see any clinical signs in a cat until it is too late. So it’s really important that if you see that your cat or dog has chewed on either of these plants to call the veterinarian right away.”
If you suspect your pet has eaten a toxic item Rubanick warns that pet owners should not induce vomiting on their own.
“Always call your veterinarian first before you induce vomiting,” said Rubanick. “Sometimes, certain items can cause more damage coming back up. Additionally, there is always the chance that the animal can aspirate and that can add more problems.”
Knowing the signs that your pet may have ingested something toxic is critical. A few symptoms to look for include: vomiting, dehydration, weakness, muscle tremors, hyperactivity, diarrhea, weight loss, loss of appetite, pain, or bloating.
Rubanick recommends that if you notice any of these signs or symptoms this holiday season to contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at: (888) 426-4435.