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.

A summary of Easter dangers

A number of foods and flowers that are common around Easter can be harmful to your dog. These include:

  • Chocolate Easter eggs
  • Hot cross buns and Easter Simnel cake
  • Some spring flowers, such as daffodils, tulips and spring crocus
  • Fatty or salty food from your Easter Sunday roast

Around Easter keep an extra close eye on your dog. Make sure they don’t sneak any of the foods they shouldn’t be eating and remember to keep all dangerous foods and flowers out of paws reach.

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.

Why is chocolate poisonous to dogs?
Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine which dogs are particularly sensitive to. Theobromine is similar to caffeine and so has a stimulant effect on dogs.
How much is too much chocolate?

It’s very difficult to say. It all depends on two main factors: 1) how big your dog is (bigger dogs can tolerate more chocolate than smaller dogs) and 2) how much theobromine is in the chocolate they’ve eaten. Generally speaking, the darker and more expensive the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains. So dark chocolate that’s rich in theobromine is likely to be more toxic than white chocolate, which contains very little.

What signs should I watch out for?

Chocolate can initially cause vomiting and diarrhoea, but is a stimulant, so can lead to your dog becoming excitable, as well as developing muscle twitching, tremors, fitting and life-threatening problems with their heart. If enough chocolate is eaten then the effects can be severe or even fatal.

My dog ate chocolate, what should I do?

Call your vet immediately. If your dog is unwell you may need to take them to the vets straight away. If possible try to get someone to call ahead to alert the veterinary practice of the situation so that they can know what to expect and can be prepared.

To help your vet work out how serious it is, try to find any packaging that might give some information on how much has been eaten, what percentage of it was chocolate and what type of chocolate it contained (dark, plain, milk, white etc.).

Do not try to make your dog sick as this can sometimes make them worse.

Hints and tips for keeping your dog safe from chocolate
Over the Easter period make sure that all chocolate is out of the reach of your dog.
  • Don't let your dog take part in Easter egg hunts. Try to keep them away and always check that all chocolate eggs have been found
  • Keep any chocolate our of paws reach when it's not being eaten
  • When eating chocolate make sure your dog can't get to it and don't be tempted to feed them any, no matter how lovingly they look at you

Although chocolate foil wrappers are not poisonous, they can cause an obstruction if eaten. This can be very dangerous and may require surgical intervention. Signs of an obstruction may include vomiting, lethargy, your dog being off their food, not going for a poo, or finding it difficult to have a poo.

Hot cross buns and Simnel cake

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 and Simnel cake are kept well away from your dogs.

How many raisins or sultanas are toxic to dogs?

We don’t know why these fruits are toxic to dogs, or how much is poisonous. Some dogs have eaten large quantities of this fruit and had no effects, while others have become unwell after very small amounts.

What are the signs to watch out for raisin or sultana poisoning?

As well as possibly causing vomiting and diarrhoea, these fruits can cause kidney failure, which can sometimes be delayed for 24 to 72 hours. Signs of kidney failure can include a decrease in urination, your dog may also appear dull, or show signs of increased thirst. Quick treatment is important. If your dog does eat any amount, contact your vet immediately.

My dog ate a hot cross buns/ Simnel cake - what should I do?
Call your vet as soon as possible. Any amount of grapes, or the dried versions of them (raisins, sultanas or currants), could potentially be harmful to your dog, so your vet may ask you to bring your dog to the practice. Do not make your dog sick as this can sometimes make your dog worse.
My dog ate raisins/ sultanas a while ago, but is fine – what should I do?
Sometimes the effects from these potentially toxic fruits can be delayed by several days. It’s always best to speak to your vet for advice, even if your dog seems ok.

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.

Thinking of giving your dog some of your roast dinner?

When you’re sitting down for your Easter Sunday meal it’s nice to be able to share some with your dog, but is this ok and if not is there a way to do it safely?

Some foods  traditionally served up with a roast dinner are toxic to dogs, too fatty or too salty for them. The last thing you want is for a treat to cause them to feel unwell, or even worse result in a trip to the vets.

Find some hints and tips on how to treat your dog safely at Easter lunch:

  • Check our list of foods that are poisonous to dogs
  • If you’re giving your dog some of your food, even if it’s “safe”, only give them a small amount. Unfamiliar foods can still cause an upset stomach or excessive and uncomfortable wind
  • If you give any treats make sure to reduce their meal to help balance their daily calories
  • Even if giving dog food, or treats, make sure not to give them too much. Even though it’s Easter, large amounts of food could be dangerous to them, especially if you exercise your dog within a couple of hours after feeding them

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.

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.

Find out more

If you found this article useful, here are a number of related articles that may be helpful or interesting to you:

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.