Easter lilies, chocolate pose threat to pets

Veterinarians warn pet owners of holiday hazards

SAN ANTONIO – Chocolate bunnies and Easter lilies may be symbols of the season, but they can be poison to pets, veterinarians warn.

"A lot of dogs will get into the chocolate, and as most everyone knows, it's pretty toxic," Dr. Pat Richardson, with Broadway Oaks Animal Hospital.

Chocolate contains a chemical that's toxic to pets. The darker the chocolate, the greater the danger, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Veterinarians and animal hospitals expect an increase in calls from distressed pet owners  around the holiday, because many treats are hazardous to animals.

Xylitol, an artificial sweetener in some gums and candies, can be very toxic to pets.

And, it's not just the goodies. The plastic grass popular in Easter baskets can lead to big trouble for cats. They love to play in it, and if they swallow a long string, they can end up in gastrointestinal distress.

"Because it's a long string, some of it will stay up in the upper part of the intestines, and the rest will carry through and it will get real taut and it will cut through the intestines," Richardson said.

It can be extremely painful to cats and require surgery.

Perhaps the biggest threat to cats isn't in the basket: it's the Easter lily. Flowers in the true lily family, including Easter lilies, stargazers, tiger lilies, Asiatic lilies and more, can be deadly to a cat that ingests the pollen or chews on a leaf or flower.

"They start salivating. They vomit," Richardson said. "If you don't get it out of their system in eight to 10 hours, it will cause kidney failure, renal shutdown, so it's highly toxic."

If you're thinking about giving a live bunny, chick or duck as an Easter gift, animal advocates say think again. Often the pets are too fragile for children, and when the novelty wears off, you have an unwanted pet.

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