Easter Toxins and Hazards
Do not let a pet emergency become the focus of your holiday celebration. Following some of the tips below will make the day safe for all.
Easter Lily (and related Lily plants)
The Easter Lily is a common finding this time of year. “Unbeknownst to many pet owners, Easter lilies are highly toxic to cats,” said Ahna Brutlag, DVM, MS assistant director at Pet Poison Helpline. “All parts of the Easter lily plant are poisonous – the petals, the leaves, the stem and even the pollen. Cats that ingest as few as one or two leaves, or even a small amount of pollen while grooming their fur, can suffer severe kidney failure.”
In most situations, symptoms of poisoning will develop within six to 12 hours of exposure. Early signs include vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy and dehydration. Symptoms worsen as kidney failure develops. Some cats will experience disorientation, staggering and seizures.
Another spring flower often used in cut flower arrangements, daffodils, are also toxic to cats.
- Easter grass (just like tinsel from Christmas)
Cats and dogs love anything that moves. Easter grass moves easily in the breeze, makes interesting sounds, and, for some cats and dogs, it is simply irresistible and must be eaten.
When your cat or dog ingests something “stringy” like Easter grass, it can become anchored around the base of the tongue or stomach, rendering it unable to pass through the intestines. It can result in a linear foreign body and cause severe damage to the intestinal tract, often requiring expensive abdominal surgery.
Trying to pull out visible grass or string is not recommended, as this can cause more damage if the piece is long and trapped far inside the body. Call your veterinarian if you suspect that your cat has sampled the Easter grass.
You may be surprised to learn that plastic Easter grass is also a danger to birds which are nesting at this time of year. Birds are drawn to the colorful strands and weave them into their nest. The sturdy plastic strands may wrap around and entrap a bird’s foot, or wrap around a chick’s neck. If you have an outdoor Easter egg hunt, be sure to pick up all errant strands of plastic grass.
As a safer alternative to plastic Easter grass, look for colorful shredded paper grass or use Easter-themed tissue paper.
This is typically more of a dog hazard, as many dogs have a sweet tooth, a great nose, and the determination to find chocolate -- hidden or not, but cats may consume chocolate too.
The toxic components in chocolate are theobromine and caffeine, and the level of toxicity is based on the type and quantity of chocolate consumed.
Different types of chocolate have different amounts of theobromine and caffeine; dark chocolate contains the highest concentrations and white "chocolate" contains the least. Early clinical signs are vomiting, diarrhea and trembling.
Ingested foil wrapping can cause intestinal blockages as well as lacerate the lining of the intestines.
It is important to note that xylitol, an artificial sweetener used in many candies, chewing gums and baked goods, is potentially very toxic to dogs and ferrets.
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.
- Easter Toys
Stuffed bunnies, chickens, and other plastic toys can be chewed and swallowed your pet. Your dog might swallow plastic, stuffing, or other parts that can cause intestinal blockages or an upset stomach. Keep the baskets out of reach of your pet.
- Plastic Easter eggs
Plastic eggs are usually filled with candy and coins. Ingesting the plastic can cause intestinal blockages, lacerations of the intestinal lining, mouth and trachea. Pennies made since 1982, zinc oxide skin preparations such as Desitin, and galvanized metal such as nails and staples. In cases of short-term exposure or when smaller amounts are ingested, signs include