Easter treats a no-no for pets

Monday , 30 March 2015 by Aimee Bourke

Easter is right around the corner but you need to hide the sweets and chocolate from your pets as well as your children.

If last year is anything to go by, Easter will see a rise in dog owners visiting vets and lodging insurance claims after their pets sniff out the chocolate.

Claims last year to Southern Cross Pet Insurance saw one eager little pooch, who ate two hollow Easter bunnies and a hollow Easter egg plus the foil wrapping, cost its owner over $1,000 in veterinary treatment.

In another case, an Airedale Terrier was the prime suspect when a 450g box of chocolates disappeared, forcing a quick trip to the vet costing over $250.

Dr Cath Watson, President of New Zealand Veterinary Association’s Companion Animal Society, says that while humans simply feel a bit ill if they over-indulge at Easter, the results can be life threatening for our pets.

“Chocolate is a particular problem, caused by an alkaloid known as theobromine which is found in the cacao plant and can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, excessive panting, abnormal heartbeat, seizures or even death. A standard 200g block of dark chocolate contains around 1400mg of theobromine –enough to kill a small dog of around 7-14kg, and cause tremors and seizures in large dogs.”

Typically, food poisoning of a pet will require emergency medical care which may include intensive veterinary care and hospitalisation, specialised nursing, intravenous fluid therapy, medication for cardiac irregularities, tremoring and other toxic effects, nutritional support, and after hours care, says Watson.

Anthony McPhail, Head of Southern Cross Pet Insurance, says Kiwi pet owners tend to be a bit naughty when it comes to what they feed their pets.

“Research undertaken for us last year found that 68% of dog owners and 47% of cat owners feed their pets human food.”

While expert advice is that pets should eat pet food that is measured and correct for their nutritional needs, McPhail says you can still indulge your pet at Easter.

“You can buy Easter eggs and cakes made specifically for them online. I’ve seen yoghurt and catnip flavour for cats and carob for dogs so they certainly don’t have to miss out on the fun.”

As well as keeping the chocolate out of reach, owners should be wary of giving their pets leftovers such as the remains of the celebratory Easter roast.

Dr Watson says that regularly eating human foods can cause conditions such as kidney disease and obesity.

“Onions and garlic can cause diarrhoea and vomiting, and in severe cases damage and loss of red blood cells in cats and dogs. Avoid giving them fatty trimmings also, as these can induce pancreatic inflammation,” she says.

“If your pet does consume any of these foods and shows signs of weakness, vomiting, lack of coordination, or any other out of the norm behaviour, contact your vet immediately.”


Editor note: Conducted by TNS the online survey of 2,066 randomly selected New Zealanders was carried out in September 2014. Responses were weighted to be representative of the New Zealand over 15 population by age, gender and region.