Easter is approaching and many pet owners will be celebrating the holiday.  We wanted to take this opportunity to discuss two common toxins that may accompany this holiday: chocolate and Easter Lilies.  Q:  I have heard so much about chocolate and its toxic effects on pets, but I’m not what’s fact and what’s fiction.  Could you share some details? 

A:  Chocolate is part of a broader group of chemical compounds called methylxanthines which include caffeine and theobromine.  Although chocolate is our primary concern for toxicity, pet owners should also be cautious about coffee, tea, supplements that contain caffeine, and cocoa mulch used in landscaping.  Although cats can exhibit toxicity, dogs are the primary concern for exposure.  Clinical signs can range from milder signs such as restlessness, hyperexcitement, and agitation to more severe signs such as cardiac arrthythmias and seizure activity.  There is some variability in terms of severity of toxicity due both to the type and amount of chocolate as well as individual dog variances in body chemistry.  In general unsweetened bakers chocolate and cocoa powder are of most concern; milk chocolate is a lesser, but not irrelevant concern.  There are multiple online calculators and mobile apps that can be used to help guide pet owners if an ingestion occurs.  As always, it is best to seek the advice of your veterinarian if you have concerns or questions regarding this common toxin exposure.  

Q:  I always love Easter time because of all the beautiful Easter lilies.  Is there anything I should be concerned about with my pets?  

A:  Easter lilies are indeed gorgeous flowers but extreme caution should be taken in households with cats, as these plants are highly toxic to cats.  Pet owners should be aware that many common house plants have the moniker of “lily” associated with them.  THe only two genera of major concern are the true lilies (Lilium) and day lilies (Hemerocallis).  All portions of the plant are extremely toxic, with the flowers being the most toxic part.  Even very small amounts ingested need to be treated as a true emergency.  Clinical signs include vomiting, lethargy, and loss of appetite within a few hours.  Within 1-2 days, these cats can develop life threatening shutdown of their kidneys.  Unless treated very early in the course of exposure, this can lead to death.  The best recommendation for owners with cats as part of the pet population is not to bring these plants into their households.  

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