Easter dangers

Dog sitting amongst flowers and grass in spring time
At Easter we all like to indulge in chocolate. Easter eggs, fondant filled eggs and chocolate nests are all tasty and great fun, but they can be dangerous to dogs. As well as chocolate, there are several other seasonal things that can be harmful to our dogs, including hot cross buns and a number of flowering bulbs and plants.

Chocolate

Chocolate poisoning is particularly common at this time of year, especially with the large amounts of Easter eggs that may be around your home. Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, which can be poisonous to dogs, as well as most other animals, including cats, rodents and rabbits.

How much is too much chocolate?

The seriousness of the poisoning will depend on the amount, type and quality of the chocolate eaten. Generally speaking, the darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains, and therefore the more poisonous it is. White chocolate contains very little theobromine and although it is unlikely to cause theobromine poisoning, it is still very fatty and can make your dog ill.

What signs can it cause?

As well as possibly causing vomiting and diarrhoea, chocolate is a stimulant, so it can cause excitement, muscle twitching, tremors, fitting and can increase the heart rate and blood pressure.

Hot cross buns

Grapes, raisins, currants and sultanas are all toxic to dogs and it is believed the dried forms of these fruits are more toxic than grapes. At this time of year, it is therefore important that hot cross buns are kept well away from your dogs.

How much is too much?

It is not known why these fruits are toxic to dogs, or how much can be poisonous. Some dogs have eaten large quantities of this fruit and had no effects, while others have become unwell after very small amounts.

What signs can it cause?

As well as possibly causing stomach problems, these fruits can cause kidney failure, which can sometimes be delayed by up to three days. Kidney failure may sometimes present as a decrease in urination, or your dog may also appear dull and show signs of increased thirst.

Prompt treatment is important. If your dog does eat any amount, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Spring bulbs

Incidents of poisoning from spring bulbs are most likely to occur from dogs eating the bulbs in autumn when they are planted, or in spring when they begin to flower.

Daffodils

Effects from poisoning can include vomiting, stomach upset and salivation, but can escalate to dogs appearing sleepy, wobbly on their legs, or collapsing. In more serious cases fits and changes to heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure may occur. Dogs can also become unwell if the flowers are eaten, or if water from a vase containing daffodils is drunk.

Tulips

The toxins found in this plant cause irritation to the mouth and gastrointestinal tract and only usually result in drooling, vomiting and diarrhoea. Serious cases are rare, but effects could include heart problems and breathing difficulties.

Spring crocus

These flower in spring and are said to be of low toxicity and may only cause a mild stomach upset if eaten. These bulbs are not to be confused with autumn crocus, which flower in autumn and can cause severe stomach upset, kidney and liver problems and bone marrow depression.

What to do if you think your dog has eaten something it shouldn't have

If you think that your dog may have eaten, touched or inhaled something that it shouldn't have, speak to your vet straight away.

Never try to make your dog sick. Trying to do this can cause other complications, which may harm your dog.

Things to tell your vet

In an emergency you can help your veterinary practice make an informed decision as to whether your dog needs to be treated by them, and if so, what the best treatment would be. Where possible you should provide your veterinary practice with information on:

  • What poison you think your dog has been exposed to (i.e. chocolate, ibuprofen etc.). Include any product names, or lists of ingredients if relevant
  • How much they may have been exposed to (i.e. 500mg, 500ml, one tablet etc, even approximations may help)
  • When your dog was exposed to the poison (i.e. 5 minutes, 5 hours or 5 days ago)
  • If your dog has been unwell and, if so, what clinical effects have been seen

It is easier for a vet to care for a poisoned dog if it is treated sooner rather than later. If you are in any doubt, don't wait for your dog to become unwell before calling for advice.

What to take to your vets

If you do need to take your dog to your veterinary practice, make sure that you take along any relevant packaging, or a sample of the poison, i.e. parts of plant or fungi. Always make sure that you yourself are protected and cannot be poisoned in turn.

How to use this information

The information is intended to be used to prevent poisoning by raising awareness of certain poisons, rather than as a document to be used in an emergency. If you think that your dog has been poisoned, or has come into contact with potentially poisonous substances, contact your local veterinary practice immediately.

Think your dog may be affected?

If you're worried about your dog's health, always contact your vet immediately!

We're not a veterinary organisation and so we can't give veterinary advice, but if you're worried about any of the issues raised in this article, please contact your local vet practice for further information.

Find a vet near you

If you're looking for a vet practice near you, why not visit the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons' Find a vet page.

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