Easter and Springtime Hazards for Dogs and Cats

Keep pets away from lilies, chocolate, and Easter grass, and more

dog running through bluebells
@thenewenglandshop / Twenty20

When it is time for spring cleaning, you often stow away your winter decor, perhaps dig out your Easter or springtime decorations, and transform your home for the season. If you have a cat or dog in the house, you might want to steer clear of seasonal items that might pose potential threats to your pet's health. Prevent a trip to the emergency vet by pet-proofing your spring-spiffy house.

Easter Lily and Daffodils

Easter lily plants are commonly on display in the spring or given as Easter gifts. This plant and all related plants in the lily family are highly toxic to cats if ingested. Another spring flower often used in cut flower arrangements, daffodils, are also toxic to cats.

The first signs of plant toxicity are vomiting and lethargy. If left untreated, your kitty's demise may progress to kidney (renal) failure and death. Call your veterinarian immediately if you suspect that your cat has eaten any part of these plants.

Easter Grass

Cats love anything that moves. Easter grass moves easily in a room with a breeze or draft, makes interesting sounds, and, for some cats, it is simply irresistible and must be eaten.

Stringy things like Easter grass or tinsel at Christmas, pose a deadly threat if ingested. Veterinarians consider Easter grass a linear foreign body. Signs that your pet has this problem, aside from the material being visible from the mouth or anus, are vomiting, straining to defecate, and a painful abdomen.

Trying to pull out visible grass strings is not recommended. Pulling the strand 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. While linear foreign bodies are more common in cats, dogs may also ingest non-food material, and the same concerns apply here.

Chocolate

Chocolate 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. More often than not, your dog will find Reese's Peanut Butter Cups or Hershey's Kisses in eggs hidden in your backyard Easter hunt before your kids, so, keep them away.

The toxic components in chocolate are theobromine and caffeine, and the level of toxicity is based on the type and quantity of chocolate consumed as well as the size of your pet.

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.

The toxicity level for either a dog or cat is the same depending on weight, however, dogs are more so in danger than cats since dogs are drawn to sweets meanwhile cats are not. A cat may try some chocolate but is less likely to continue eating it.

Xylitol

Xylitol, an artificial sweetener used in many candies, chewing gums, tubes of toothpaste, and baked goods, is potentially very toxic to dogs and ferrets. The veterinary community is not clear if it is toxic to cats.

The most commonly available xylitol item is sugar-free gum. Gum can be found everywhere and is often tempting to dogs. 

Signs of toxicity can be seen as quickly as 30 minutes after xylitol ingestion in dogs. Xylitol ingestion leads to a rapid release of the hormone insulin, which can cause a sudden decrease in the dog's blood sugar level. Symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, weakness, uncoordinated movements, depression, seizures, and unconsciousness.