Wicklow vets share tips to keep your pet safe from toxic treats this Easter

The coming of Easter is famously trumpeted by the sudden (and very welcome) arrival of chocolate eggs on supermarket shelves across the country. And while this is a time for chocolate-lovers to rejoice, these seasonal treats can be very dangerous for our furry friends.

Wicklow vets are urging pet owners, particularly of dogs and cats, to be vigilant this Easter as the sugary, chocolate treats start rolling in two by two, because, while children (and many adults, let’s not kid ourselves) might happily consume the chocolate goodness – these treats can be poisonous to our pets.

Chocolate is toxic to pets because it contains a substance called theobromine that dogs cannot break down. The darker the chocolate, the higher the theobromine content, and even small amounts can cause illness. The smaller the dog, the less they need to eat to be poisoned.

Raisins, sultanas, hot cross buns, and simnel cake can also be poisonous to pets, and even the traditional Easter roast dinner can lead to gastroenteritis or choking on bones.

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning may include vomiting, diarrhoea and increased heart rate, and it can lead to fits and cardiac failure.

But it’s not just chocolate treats that can be fatal to dogs, as even sweet jellies, for example, contain xylitol, a sweetener that can cause vomiting, drowsiness, collapse and fits in dogs.

Mairead Berkery, a vet and one of Avondale Veterinary’s directors, said: “We see a higher number of chocolate poisoning cases at this time of year and I would urge owners to keep Easter treats well out of the reach of their pets. While we do hear of well-meaning owners treating their pets with chocolate, most of the poisoning cases we see have involved dogs sniffing out Easter eggs and helping themselves. If you do have chocolate in the house, lock it away or put it up high where your pet can’t get to it.

“If you suspect your pet has eaten something toxic, call your veterinary practice straight away and, if possible, let them know what they’ve eaten and how much. They will be able to give you advice over the phone and tell you if you need to take your pet in for treatment.”

To keep your pets safe and avoid emergency trips to the vets this Easter, Wicklow veterinarians have put together an action plan to keep these harmful foods away from your beloved friends:

1. Keep Easter eggs out of reach of your dog as chocolate can cause hyperactivity, an elevated heart rate and seizures.
2. Don’t let dogs eat hot cross buns because the grapes, raisins, currants and sultanas they contain can be toxic to pets.
3. Flowers are popular Easter gifts, but they can make pets very ill. Daffodils, tulips and crocuses are toxic, especially if dogs dig up and eat the bulbs, while lilies can cause excessive salivation (drooling), lethargy, vomiting and kidney failure in cats.
4. Keep stuffed cuddly toy bunnies and chicks and plastic toys away from dogs because they can be chewed or swallowed, causing choking or blockages.
5. Turkey, chicken, lamb, beef and pork bones that have been cooked splinter easily and can perforate your dog’s stomach or cause choking. They are dangerous and should never be fed to dogs.
6. Avoid feeding scraps from the table. Rich, fatty foods can result in vomiting or diarrhoea and lead to an increased risk of pancreatitis, a painful and serious condition.
7. Keep onions and garlic – powdered, raw, cooked, or dehydrated – away from your dog and be aware that foodstuffs such as stuffing can contain these ingredients. They can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and anaemia.
8. Prevent pets having access to alcohol as it can cause serious liver damage.

Mairead added: “Even the most well-behaved pets can be tempted to steal food, so make sure they can’t reach the tops of cookers or kitchen worktops and that bins containing leftovers aren’t accessible.”

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