Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Easter Hazards for Pets

Easter Treats and Decorations Can Be Hazardous to Pets
The Easter holiday season can be a very festive time for families, especially for those with children. The holiday decorations, the Easter baskets, candies and holiday cooking all contribute to the joyous celebration. However, despite the wonders of Easter, dangers are ever present for pets during the holiday season. Pet owners need to recognize these potential hazards and be proactive to prevent illness or injury to their animal companions. Our pets are intrigued by all the interesting decorations that are placed around the house, as well as the presence of the enticing aromas of candies and holiday foods. By taking appropriate preventative measures, pet owners can be assured that this holiday season will not involve a trip to their veterinarian or animal emergency clinic.

Easter Lilies - Cats are very curious by nature and have a tendency to chew on objects or houseplants. The presence of a new plant piques their interest and they need to evaluate the new addition. Easter lilies are lovely and represent the season, however, they pose a danger, especially to pet cats. Easter lilies are highly toxic to cats, with the potential for causing kidney failure. All parts of the plant are considered poisonous, so please keep these plants away from cats. Lilies dangerous to cats include: Easter Lily, Tiger Lily, Rubrum Lily, Japanese Show Lily, and Day Lily. A cat may vomit, lose its appetite or become lethargic within a few hours of eating a dangerous plant. If this happens, see your veterinarian immediately.

Easter Decorations - Animals are attracted to unusual or shiny objects which may be found around the house during Easter used for decorations or wrapping. Dogs and cats cannot see in color so it is the shiny, shimmering or unusual appearance that attracts them. Birds can see in color, so color may definitely be a source of attraction to them. Keep aluminum foil and cellophane candy wrappers away from pets. Pets may swallow such material, leading to gastrointestinal irritation, causing vomiting or may even pass into the intestinal tract producing an intestinal blockage. Cats are quite often attracted to ribbons, bows, strings and other decorations which they may chew, swallow and develop intestinal blockage. Easter basket grass can cause intestinal obstruction in cats and may lead to emergency surgery. In addition, twinkling lights or other interesting electrical decorations may prove attractive to your pets. They may chew on the cords which may lead to severe electrical shocks.

Keep the decorations out of the reach of your pets to avoid potential danger. If you notice that your pet is very interested in the decorations and may be chewing on them, be certain to relocate the objects in a safe place where you pet cannot get to them.

Easter Candies and Treats  - Chocolates and candies are a big part of any Easter celebration, especially when children are involved. With their sensitive sense of smell, pets are attracted to the candies and goodies, which can lead to all sorts of problems if they are ingested. In addition to the foods themselves, posing a risk are candy wrappers, sticks and plastic eggs which can lead to gastrointestinal irritation or cause blockages..

Chocolate is toxic for dogs when ingested in large quantities Chocolate, in addition to having a high fat content, contains caffeine and theobromine. These two compounds are nervous system stimulants and can be toxic in high amounts. The levels of caffeine and theobromine vary between different types of chocolate. For example, white chocolate has the lowest concentration of stimulants and baking chocolate or cacao beans have the highest concentration.Do NOT think that a little bit is not going to hurt, because it is the sensitivity to the theobromine that is the danger and if the dog is sensitive to it, even a small amount can cause a severe reaction.

Depending on the type of chocolate ingested and the amount eaten, various problems can occur. The high fat content in chocolate may result in vomiting and possibly diarrhea. Once toxic levels are eaten, the stimulant effect becomes apparent. Restlessness, hyperactivity, and possibly excessive panting may be seen. Heart rate and blood pressure levels may also be increased. Seizure activity may occur in severe cases. The symptoms to watch for include: vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, hyperactivity, restlessness, panting, and seizure activity.

Treatment depends on the type and amount of chocolate ingested, your individual pet, and your veterinarian. Pets receiving minor amounts of chocolate may not be treated. Pets ingesting toxic amounts of chocolate are treated with fluids, medications for vomiting and sedatives. Discuss treatment details when your pet is diagnosed with this condition.

Artificial Sweeteners
Other chemicals found in certain candies can also be toxic to your pets. Xylitol, a sweetener found in some candies and gum can be toxic to pets if taken in large amounts. Ingestion of significant quantities can produce a fairly sudden drop in blood sugar, resulting in depression, incoordination and seizures. Foods containing Xylitol should be kept well out of reach of your pets. Do not take any chances with you pets. As stated before, do not think that a little bit is not going to hurt. You should have plenty of treats around the house that are appropriate for your pets and use them instead of candies.

Holiday Food/Cooking - Food is a very important aspect of our holiday celebrations as many human waistlines can attest. Unfortunately, many of these foods can cause serious problems in our pets and as any veterinarian will tell you, this is the time of year that we see numerous gastrointestinal problems in pets.
Food Preparation -The preparation of food can be a problem, especially for pet birds. Birds have a very effective respiratory tract and coupled with their relatively small size are susceptible to toxic elements in the air. During cooking if food burns or smoke is produced, any birds nearby the kitchen could be at risk of fatal smoke inhalation. If non-stick cookware is used there is another risk for pet birds. Under normal cooking conditions, the cookware is safe but if polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) coated products (such as Teflon, Silverstone, and Supra) are overheated (over 530 degrees F), they can emit toxic fumes which are fatal to birds. PTFE coated drip pans achieve high temperatures under normal usage so they should not be used around birds at all. If your bird has been exposed to smoke or fumes get them to an area of good ventilation and seek veterinary care.
Holiday Food/Leftovers -Avoid the temptation to feed your pets leftovers from your holiday meals. Many of these foods are rich; especially those that are high in fat, and can often cause severe gastrointestinal disturbances in pets which could prove fatal. Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) is a very common disease of dogs and is frequently caused by the eating of table scraps. The pancreas plays a role in digestion of food but when an animal eats a rich or fatty meal, the pancreas is 'overstimulated' and the organ oversecretes enzymes leading to inflammation of the pancreas and surrounding tissues. Signs of pancreatitis include vomiting and abdominal pain, sometimes quite severe. The condition is very uncomfortable for the pet and sometimes can be fatal. If you notice these type of symptoms seek veterinary care.
Be cautious with any bones provided to your pet. Sharp bones, especially from chicken or turkey, may become lodged in the mouth or throat of your pet. If the bones move further into the digestive tract, there is a risk that the bones could perforate the stomach or intestines. This situation may require surgical removal and if they do not receive veterinary attention, they may die. Provide your .pet with commercial chew toys to avoid any potential problems.
Be aware of the danger with guacamole around pet birds. Most bird owners know that avocado is extremely toxic for birds and severe reactions can lead to death. However, some people forget that avocado is the key ingredient in guacamole. When you are having holiday parties and with all kinds of appetizers available, such as chips and dips, be careful if there is guacamole around with your pet birds present. They may decide to sample some of the dip, or an unknowing houseguest may innocently provide a taste of the dip to one of the birds with potentially tragic results. Also, do not give your pets onions, macadamia nuts or alcohol -- they are toxic to both dogs and cats. 

Relieve Pet Stress during the Holidays - The holidays are stressful times for all of us. The commotion in decorating, cooking and entertaining friends/relatives can be overwhelming to many people. Our homes can be filled with people, especially young children. Many pets, even if not aggressive or territorial, are stressed by the increased numbers of strangers 'intruding' in their domain. The high activity level of children can be a new and stressful experience for many pets unaccustomed to this behavior. Birds can become especially upset during the holidays, particularly the larger varieties of birds. Routine is very important to birds and if that routine changes, they can become frustrated and engage in abnormal behavior. These types of behavior include, aggressiveness, screaming, biting or development of vices such as the picking off or chewing of their own feathers in frustration, which if allowed to continue can become a habit.
If possible, try to provide your pets with a consistent level of interaction with you so they do not feel left out. This is especially important with parrots. Try not to let the pandemonium of the holidays lead to stress in your pets. If you feel that your pets are uncomfortable around new people, it may be best to separate them from the holiday activity. Provide your pets with an area where they can 'get away from it all' and be alone. Cats may enjoy an intricate 'kitty condo' set up or even a cardboard box or paper bags in which to hide. For pet birds that are nervous, you might have to place the cage in a quiet room or, if that is impossible, partially or completely cover the cage so that the bird has the ability to 'hide.' Make sure that your young guests understand that they must let the animals rest when they are put in their area of 'refuge.
Chicks and Bunnies as Pets  - Children always are excited about the possibility of having a little chick or bunny as a pet and this is heightened during the Easter season, when it is especially promoted. Unfortunately, these type of purchases can lead to tragic outcomes. When these living creatures are taken on as a companion, it is so important to understand their nutritional and husbandry needs as well as the reality that this is a true commitment. All too often these pets are purchased, their needs are not understood and they die horrible deaths due to the lack of  proper care. Another huge problem is that the children may tire of the pet, especially as they grow into adult chickens or rabbits, and the novelty/cuteness wears off. These loving creatures need good, lasting relationships and not facing the possibility of being discarded for whatever reason.
Please understand this...Chicks and rabbits should not be taken on as pets unless their owners are committed to giving them permanent homes and caring for them responsibly. They are living, breathing, feeling, companion animals and deserve to be treated with the respect.
 Conclusion  - By following these precautions your holiday season will be a joyous one without any pet crises. They love to be part of the family festivities but make sure they do so safely.


  1. Hi Peter - Because there's so much misinformation out there about the Teflon® brand, I'm not surprised that you are concerned. I'm a representative of DuPont though, and hope you'll let me share some information with you and your readers, so that everyone can make truly informed decisions.

    Because birds have extremely sensitive respiratory systems, bird owners must take precautions to protect them. Cooking fumes, smoke and odors that have little or no effect on people can seriously sicken and even kill birds, often quite quickly. Cooking fumes from any type of unattended or overheated cookware, not just non-stick, can damage a bird's lungs with alarming speed. This is why bird owners should take steps to protect their pets, such as keeping their birds out of the kitchen, never leaving cookware unattended, never allowing pots and pans to overheat, and making sure that their kitchen is properly ventilated at all times.

    It should be noted that butter, fats, and cooking oils will begin to smoke at approximately 400°F (204°C), producing fumes that can irritate eyes, nose, and throat and possibly cause respiratory distress. DuPont non-stick coatings will not begin to deteriorate in appearance or performance until the temperature of the cookware reaches about 500°F

    Regulatory agencies, consumer groups and health associations all have taken a close look at the Teflon® brand. This article highlights what they found -- the bottom line is that you can use Teflon® non-stick without worry.

  2. There are too many reliable sources speaking against nonstick surfaces to list here. Following is just one:

    "You might have heard that non-stick pans were dangerous to use, but I have to tell you that they are perfectly safe.,. Just so long as you don’t actually cook with them, because the moment you heat them, they start to liberate fluoride vapors that are so toxic they will kill small birds."