Chicago, Illinois— During the Passover and Easter holiday season, family pets are at risk due to a number of items commonly found in homes. Pet owners must take precautionary measures to maintain a safe environment in their homes.

The Easter lily plant, chocolate, lamb and ham bones, and Easter grass are several of the easily identifiable culprits affecting pets during the holiday season.

The entire Easter lily plant – the petals, the leaves, the stem, and pollen – is poisonous for cats. Severe kidney failure may result from ingestion. The outward signs in the early stage of poisoning include vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, and dehydration. Immediate treatment of a cat by your veterinarian is necessary for a successful outcome.

Specific dangers are posed by varieties of chocolate. While a single chocolate chip will not adversely harm a dog, pet owners should be concerned about methyl xanthine in dark and Baker’s chocolate, and xylitol in sugar-free baked goods, and candy.

Methyl xanthine, which is found in dark chocolate and Baker’s chocolate, is 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, which include a possible sudden decrease in blood sugar (hypoglycemia), seizures, and liver failure. Also found in holiday baked goods, raisins (and their hydrated relative, grapes), can cause kidney failure in dogs.

Access to that ham or lamb bone should be off limits for your pet. The larger the piece of bone, the more likely the potential for an injury requiring possible surgery. Many small pieces of bones can pass, which is not always an emergency. If your dog or cat gets hold of a bone, please contact your veterinarian for advice.

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.

According to Chicago Veterinary Medical Association President Dr. Tracey Maione:

“Holiday gatherings pose more potential health hazards for pets. Guests must be careful to not leave out personal items, purses, etc that curious pets can chew objects or ingest human medications that can be toxic. In addition table scraps should be avoided. Too many table scraps or a variety of new foods can lead to gastrointestinal harm and pancreatitis which requires immediate veterinary care.”

While many individuals love to surprise family members with pets, a bunny, puppy, or kitten is not a good gift. Sadly, many unwanted bunnies are turned into shelters a few weeks after Easter. Veterinarians recommend holidays are simply not the correct time to give an animal, since a lifetime commitment and responsible ownership are important for many years of enjoyment and the well-being of a pet. If there is a strong desire to introduce a bunny, puppy, or kitten into your family’s home, the best approach is to start with a stuffed animal and learn about proper care.

During this holiday season, if there is any uncertainty about an issue your pet is experiencing, a prompt call to your veterinarian is the best course of action. While not all ingestions will be dangerous to your pet, many have the potential to be very serious or even life threatening.