COLLEGE STATION — Though current circumstances might change the way we celebrate Easter this Sunday, many people are looking forward to the holiday and accompanying festivities as a break from the serious rhetoric of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Murl Bailey, a professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, advises pet owners to be cautious with some popular Easter decorations and treats in order to make the holiday as enjoyable for your furry friend as it is for you.
“For cats, the biggest problem will be the Easter lilies,” Bailey said. “Easter lilies affect the cat’s kidneys, and we don’t know what the toxic agent is. The clinical signs that we see in affected cats is they stop eating and act abnormally.”
Bailey adds that this abnormal behavior may include lethargy, vomiting and dehydration. If the affected cat does not receive prompt veterinary care, these symptoms may progress to excessive urination or the inability to urinate, not drinking or excessive thirst, or other indicators of acute kidney failure.
“Cats who have eaten this plant must be brought to the emergency room,” Bailey said. “They have to be given fluids for about 48 hours. If they don’t get treatment within 48 hours after the cat has ingested the plant, the results could be fatal.”
Bailey says dogs are more at risk for eating human foods that are toxic, like chocolate or snacks containing xylitol, an artificial sweetener.
“Xylitol causes the pancreas to secrete insulin,” Bailey said. “It drives the dog’s blood glucose, or the blood sugar, down to levels that are extremely dangerous.”
A dog with xylitol toxicity may display signs of vomiting, lethargy or depression, a lack of coordination, tremors or even seizures. They should be taken to a veterinarian immediately to stabilize their blood glucose.
“Chocolate is also toxic to dogs, and dogs are notorious for scarfing it down,” Bailey said. “It causes the dog to vomit. They’ll also develop diarrhea and convulsions that need to be controlled with veterinary intervention.”
It is specifically a component called theobromine in chocolate that is toxic to dogs. As such, the severity of a dog’s response to eating chocolate is dependent on not only their size and the amount of chocolate consumed, but also the type of chocolate consumed (dark chocolate, for example, contains more theobromine than milk chocolate).
If an owner suspects that their dog has ingested chocolate and the animal begins to vomit, they should seek emergency veterinary care. Bailey recommends calling the clinic ahead of time to inform them about apparent issues and when you will arrive.
Because of current social distancing measures, many families may opt to host an egg hunt at home this year. Those planning to do so should take care that their pets are kept away from the eggs, as many candies contain toxic xylitol or chocolate.
Owners also should be cautious about which non-toxic human foods they feed their pets. Many human foods are too rich for pets and may cause digestive problems. Instead of slipping your pet a bite under the table, Bailey recommends feeding them a treat made for pets — but in moderation.
“Pets really should not be fed from the table at any time,” Bailey said. “It’s not good on their teeth and it’s not a balanced meal.”