What are the biggest dangers for dogs over Easter?

For many dog owners, there’s nothing better than enjoying the bright days and light nights with their dogs over the Easter period. Unfortunately, however, there are a number of hazards which can pose a serious risk to our canine companions during this time.

We’ve drawn up a list of the most common Easter hazards to be aware of.

If you’re worried your dog is sick or injured as a result of any of these, contact your vet as soon as possible, or find your nearest Vets Now pet emergency clinic or Vets Now 24/7 hospital. Try to get as much information as possible – trade name of any toxic substance consumed, active ingredient, the amount your dog has ingested and when it was ingested. If you have the original packaging show it to your vet.

1. Chocolate

Chocolate Easter eggs should be kept well out of your dog’s reach. Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine – a bit like caffeine – that’s poisonous to dogs. The amount of theobromine depends on the type of chocolate, with dark chocolate being the most toxic.

Theobromine mainly affects the guts, heart, central nervous system, and kidneys and signs of theobromine poisoning will occur between four and 24 hours after your dog has eaten chocolate. Signs include vomiting, diarrhoea, restlessness, hyperactivity and seizures. Chocolate may also contain other ingredients that are toxic to dogs such as raisins and certain types of nuts, like macadamia nuts. Read our in-depth guide on the dangers of chocolate to dogs.

2. Hot cross buns

Hot cross buns contain dried fruits like raisins, currants and sultanas which can cause kidney failure in dogs. It’s not clear what causes these toxic effects and some dogs are affected more than others. Experts agree that there is no “safe” dose of grapes and raisins so it’s best to avoid them altogether. Consult our advice guide on what to do if your dog eats these fruits.

Nutmeg, another common ingredient in hot cross buns, contains a toxin called myristicin which can cause mild stomach upset if eaten in small doses, and severe symptoms such as increased heart rate, disorientation, abdominal pain, hallucinations and even seizures if eaten in large amounts.

3. Spring flowers and plants

Spring flowers and plants can be found in many homes and gardens around Easter. Unfortunately, several are poisonous to dogs, with the bulbs posing the biggest risk. Daffodil, lily and spring crocus bulbs are all highly toxic. Symptoms of plant or bulb poisoning can include vomiting, upset stomach and heart and kidney problems. Read how Riley the Labrador had a lucky escape after eating a daffodil.

4. Xylitol

If you’re baking a cake for Easter beware of xylitol. It’s an artificial sweetener used in home baking and found in many products including some sugar-free gums and diet foods. It can also be found in some Easter eggs. Dogs are extremely sensitive to xylitol and even small amounts can cause toxicity. Early symptoms of xylitol poisoning include lethargy, vomiting and loss of coordination. Seizures and even death may occur. Assistance dog Ginny made a remarkable recovery after eating a toxic amount of xylitol. Read her story here.

Image of a dog looking at easter eggs for Vets Now article on Easter hazards for dogs
There are a number of hazards which pose a risk to dogs over the Easter period

5. Packaging and plastic toys

It’s not uncommon for dogs to swallow things they shouldn’t, and plastic toys like those found in some Easter eggs and silver foil used to wrap eggs can pose a risk if ingested. Some objects may get lodged in the intestine or, worse still, the oesophagus. Dog owner Tony Wells found this out the hard way when his Alsatian-collie Zeb swallowed a small toy and needed emergency treatment.

6. Fatty foods

Ham and lamb may be staples of a traditional Easter lunch, however, these fatty foods can cause vomiting, bloating, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, dehydration, weakness, lethargy, and fever in dogs if eaten in large enough quantities. It can also lead to life-threatening pancreatitis in more severe cases.

7. Onions, leeks and chives

These common ingredients can cause stomach and gut irritation and potentially lead to red blood cell damage and anaemia. Onions are particularly toxic and signs of poisoning often only occur a few days after your dog has eaten the vegetable.

8. Alcohol

If you’re hosting friends over the Easter weekend, just bear in mind that alcohol is significantly more toxic to dogs than to humans. When consumed, even small quantities of alcoholic beverages and food products may cause vomiting, diarrhoea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, blood changes, coma and even death. So, remember to keep alcohol well out of your dog’s reach at all times.