Easter is a great time to welcome spring, regardless of your religious views. We are welcoming new grass, buds on trees, flowers peeking up from the ground. We also welcome many things in our house. Most of these are great for us (candy, flowers, delicious food) but not all of them are great for our pets. So, what do we need to be cautious of this Easter season?
The first and most important are lilies. Lilies are the quintessential Easter flower, and are extremely toxic to cats. Lilies of all varieties are 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 cats 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. Whenever I see pictures of cats posing next to gorgeous bouquets I just about lose my mind. 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 might these high-fat meals be? Certainly an Easter ham, lamb or roast would qualify. And, although we always think we are paying attention, it only takes a couple of minutes of welcoming a guest for a sly dog to eat some roast. It also only takes one guest sneaking your dog pieces of meat or gravy to push them over the edge.
We all know that chocolate is toxic to pets, but Easter gives a chance to have baskets of it all over. All over. Eggs that are hidden particularly well may be passed over by humans, but picked up by keen-scenting dogs.
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’ve been broken into and been forgotten about in a temporary sugar coma. Make sure to 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. They often require 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!
The last thing to remember is that animals are NOT presents. Chicks, ducklings, and bunnies grow up into pets that need ongoing care. These often get neglected and end up dying even if the intentions started out well. Please stick to the plush versions that don’t suffer if they get forgotten about, and are much less messy, anyway!