Protect Your Pets from Easter Hazards
Easter lilies are highly toxic to cats
All parts of the Easter lily plant are poisonous – the petals, the leaves, the stem and even the pollen. Cats that ingest as few as one or two leaves, or even a small amount of pollen while grooming their fur, can suffer severe kidney failure.
Many other varieties of the lily family, including tiger, day, rubrum, stargazer, and Japanese show are also toxic to cats and can cause kidney failure within 72 hours.
In most situations, symptoms of poisoning will develop within six to 12 hours of exposure. Early signs include vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy and dehydration. Symptoms worsen as kidney failure develops. Some cats will experience disorientation, staggering and seizures.
There is no effective antidote to counteract lily poisoning, so the sooner you can get your cat to the veterinarian, the better the chances of survival will be. If you see your cat licking or eating any part of an Easter lily, call your veterinarian or a pet poison helpline immediately. If left untreated, the chances of survival are low.
Treatment includes inducing vomiting, administering drugs like activated charcoal (to bind the poison in the stomach and intestines), intravenous fluid therapy to flush out the kidneys, and monitoring of kidney function through blood testing. The prognosis and the cost – both financially and physically – to the pet owner and cat, are best when treated immediately.
There are several other types of lilies that are toxic to cats as well. They are of the Lilium and Hemerocallis species and commonly referred to as Tiger lilies, Day lilies and Asiatic lilies. Popular in many gardens and yards, they can also result in severe acute kidney failure.
These lilies are commonly found in florist bouquets, so it is imperative to check for poisonous flowers before bringing bouquets into the household. Other types of lilies – such as the Peace, Peruvian and Calla lilies – are usually not a problem for cats and may cause only minor drooling.
Thankfully, lily poisoning does not occur in dogs or people. However, if a large amount is ingested, it can result in mild gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting and diarrhea.
Other dangers to pets at Easter time
Also potentially harmful is the fake plastic "grass" that often accompanies Easter baskets. When your cat or dog ingests something stringy like this "grass," it can become anchored around the base of the tongue or stomach, rendering it unable to pass through the intestines. It can result in a linear foreign body and cause severe damage to the intestinal tract, often requiring expensive abdominal surgery.
During the week of Easter, calls to pet poison helplines concerning dogs that have been poisoned by chocolate increase by nearly 200 percent. While the occasional chocolate chip in one cookie may not be an issue, certain types of chocolate are very toxic to dogs. In general, the darker and more bitter the chocolate, the greater the danger. Baker’s chocolate and dark chocolate pose the biggest problem.
The chemical toxicity is due to methylxanthines (a relative of caffeine) and results in vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, an abnormal heart rhythm, seizures, and possibly death. Other sources include chewable chocolate flavored multi-vitamins, baked goods, or chocolate-covered espresso beans. If you suspect that your dog ate chocolate, call your veterinarian.
Dogs may find plastic Easter eggs remarkably similar to balls, but, if eaten, the sharp pieces of plastic can cause GI issues.
Pennies (and Coins)
If you (or the Easter bunny) leaves coin-filled eggs for little ones to find, please be aware that pennies, in particular, can be toxic if ingested. Pennies minted after 1982 contain zinc, which can be harmful if consumed. If your dog, cat, or bird ingests coins, please contact your veterinarian.
Published: April 4, 2011; Updated: March 27, 2013
With acknowledgement to Pet Poison Helpline
Pet Poison Helpline is a service available 24 hours, seven days a week for pet owners, veterinarians and veterinary technicians who require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet. Staff can provide treatment advice for poisoning cases of all species, including dogs, cats, birds, small mammals, large animals and exotic species. Pet Poison Helpline’s fee per incident includes follow-up consultation for the duration of the poison case. Pet Poison Helpline is available in North America by calling (800) 213-6680.