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Protect pets from Easter grass, candy

Published: Saturday, March 30, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

While Easter brings delight for individuals and families, pets are at risk because of items commonly found in homes. As children show natural curiosity, this also applies to animals. 

Several easily identifiable culprits are Easter grass and chocolate, the subject of numerous calls to the Pet Poison Helpline. Faux, plastic Easter grass is capable of obstructing the passage of food through the intestines if entangled around the tongue or stomach of both cats and dogs, resulting in abdominal surgery to repair severe intestinal tract damage. 

Methyl xanthine found in dark chocolate and Baker’s chocolate is highly toxic to dogs and causes symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, an abnormal heart rhythm, seizures, and possible fatality.

Xylitol, which is found in sugar-free baked goods and candy, is not harmful to humans; however, its ingestion by dogs and ferrets is dangerous, according to the FDA. Either appearing in minutes or several days, xylitol ingestion exhibits signs of illness that include a possible sudden decrease in blood sugar (hypoglycemia), seizures, and liver failure. 

The entire Easter lily plant – the petals, leaves, stem, and pollen – is poisonous for cats. Severe kidney failure may result from ingestion; the outward signs in the early stage of poisoning are vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, and dehydration.

Your pet should not be allowed access to that ham or lamb bone. Many small pieces of bones can pass; however, the larger the piece of bone, the more likely this is to create an injury requiring possible surgery.

Finally, children and adults love Easter bunnies; however, those animals are not good gifts. Veterinarians recommend that Easter is simply not the time to get a new pet.

The pre-emptive steps you take now to safeguard a pet will mean many years of enjoyment to come, and prevention of unnecessary emergency trips to your veterinarian.

Note to readers – Eric Voogd is director of public education and media relations for the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association. For more information, visit

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