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Easter is a time of festive feasts and fantastic treats for people; for pets these goodies can be more ‘fantoxic’ than fantastic. Chocolate eggs, simnel cake and hot cross buns; all pose problems for pets and here we explain how.

Easter eggs

There is an abundance of choccies about the house at this time of year, especially in the form of Easter eggs. Be they white, milk, or dark chocolate, we urge owners to keep prying paws well away from them.

The problem here is two-fold. Both theobromine (found within cocoa) and caffeine are problematic for the four-legged members of our families, and they exert similar effects on the heart and blood vessels. You might be wondering why humans not only cope with but enjoy the effects of these components (they are sometimes even used therapeutically in people), and yet it is advised that pets don’t partake in their consumption. It is a very good question, and one with an interesting answer. The answer lays in the fact that pets metabolise these things much more slowly than we do, so they hang about in the bloodstream for longer. In turn, their effect on a pet’s cardiovascular system is greater and more prolonged. If large enough quantities are consumed, vomiting, diarrhoea, extreme agitation, seizures and even heart failure can ensue. Other symptoms include excessive thirst and urination, and a racing heart. Death is also a possibility when a dose of 200mg per kilogram of a pet’s bodyweight is consumed.

Dark chocolate (and especially cooking chocolate) tends to be the biggest danger, but large quantities of milk chocolate can be problematic too. So, what about white chocolate? There is very little, to no cocoa found in white chocolate after all. The main problem here is likely to be gastrointestinal upset and/or the potential for pancreatitis due to the high fat content. Pancreatitis is a painful condition and commonly results in hospitalisation. In conclusion, it’s best not to take risks with any type of chocolate when it comes to pets. 

Simnel cake, hot cross buns and other raisin-based delights

Our interest in keeping pets away from raisins, and in fact all grape-based dried fruits, has everything to do with protecting renal function (that of the kidneys). What is intriguing about this type of toxicity is that some pets seem to have a greater sensitivity to these fruits than others, and some raisins or grapes seem to have more of the toxic tartaric acid in than others.  For some, ingesting just a few raisins, sultanas, currents or grapes can cause kidney failure.  We don’t yet know how to predict which pets – or which fruits – will have a major problem, so we must treat them all as if just a few grapes will be detrimental to their health.

Vomiting, lethargy and diarrhoea tend to be the first symptoms of grape toxicity, followed by inappetence, abdominal pain, excessive thirst and urination later on. In the final throws of renal disease, pets struggle to produce urine and therefore reduced urination might be noted. We advise never to wait for symptoms to develop before calling your vet, instead, get in touch as soon as you suspect an ingestion of this sort.

Spring bulbs

Easter occurs as springtime gets into full swing and many beautiful bulb-based plants are in abundance. The common culprits in this toxic category include daffodils, hyacinth, amaryllis, and tulips . Young pets perhaps most commonly tangle with these toxins due to their care-free curiosity, however, a pet of any age might inadvertently ingest these items and become unwell. What will likely result from eating any part of these plants includes vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain. The more severe end of the poisoned pets scale will see animals with tremors and even seizures (as with daffodils in particular); tulips can even induce heart and respiratory problems.

All of the above gives us the best excuse not to share our treats at Easter, no matter how convincing those puppydog eyes are. And if ever your pets help themselves to people-treats, or play silly-things with spring bulbs, a swift phone call to the vets is an absolute must in order to help ensure the best outcome for them.

Source: Acute kidney injury in dogs following ingestion of cream of tartar and tamarinds and the connection to tartaric acid as the proposed toxic principle in grapes and raisins – PubMed ( [DH1]

Source: VPIS [DH2]

Source: Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants ( [DH3]

Source: Spring Plant Poisonous to Dogs | Blue Cross [DH4]