From the Emergency Vet: Easter Cautions for Pets

By Joe Musielak, DVM, Pilchuck’s Small-Animal Emergency Department

With Easter and springtime just around the corner, I wanted to focus on a few cautions specific to this time of year.

For many, Easter means family gatherings, children, Easter ham (or other favorite large, heavy meal) and chocolate at every turn. As enjoyable as this time of year can be for those who celebrate, it can also be a stressful time. Every family wants the holiday to be just perfect – and sometimes the details can get away from us.

Most of us are severely tempted by the mouthwatering feasts prepared for this holiday. Your pets share very much in the temptation, and if your back is turned for even an instant, they will gobble down as much unattended food as they can get away with.

Every Easter in the emergency department, we see large dogs that have nabbed the raw or freshly cooked ham from the kitchen and run off with it. We also see smaller dogs and cats that have run off with smaller portions of the feast. We hear the same story every year about how Rover climbed up on the kitchen table and cleaned the table while Mom or Dad were answering the door for guests.

These binge-eating episodes can cause symptoms as mild as a minor intestinal upset, to pancreatitis, diarrhea and vomiting. In the cases of some foods such as chocolate, we see severe illness that can result in death.

Another thing to consider: When you hide Easter eggs or chocolates for the kids, remember that your dog has a much better nose for finding hidden treats and may find the treats faster than your child.

It is also important to let guests know if you do not want them to offer treats to your pet. The guests go home at the end of the holiday, but the ramifications for your pet may last much longer.

Another thing to consider is that those lovely Easter lilies are highly toxic to cats – so be certain to keep them out of reach.

One final consideration: Easter is the herald of spring. Many of us avid gardeners go a little crazy this time of year with our outdoor projects. This is the season our hospital sees a very large number of slug/ snail bait poisonings. The most common slug/snail baits have metaldehyde, which causes pets to seizure, quite often to death, if ingested. Please consider using the pet-safe slug baits that have iron phosphate as their active ingredient. They are a little more expensive than the ones containing metaldehyde but much less expensive emotionally or financially in the long run.

I only use the pet-safe slug bait, and my pets will be initially interested because the product “rattles” in the box like treats or dog/cat food. However, once they get the chance to smell the pet-safe slug bait in the garden, they always give me a look of disgust and walk away.