By Katie McHenry
Around the world, Easter is a celebration of rebirth, feted with colorful eggs, flowers and candy—but did you know that two of its most prominent symbols, lilies and chocolate bunnies, can be deadly to your pets?
Cats and Lilies
According to the Pet Poison Helpline, it’s important to distinguish between the two types of lilies discussed herein: the toxic species that can cause kidney failure in your cat (including Easter, Asiatic hybrids, Japanese show, tiger, day, rubrum, stargazer, red, western and wood lilies) and the more benign ones (peace, Peruvian and calla lilies), which may result in tissue irritation.
If your cat ingests a benign lily, symptoms might include drooling, pawing at or foaming of the mouth, and/or vomiting. However, a cat who ingests a toxic lily might exhibit vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, lethargy dehydration, inappropriate thirst or urination, seizures or even death. With toxic lilies, ingesting even a small portion of the plant—including the stem, petals, leaves or pollen—could lead to kidney failure.
If you suspect your cat has ingested any part of a lily, you should immediately take both the cat and the plant to the emergency clinic to begin the decontamination process, which will likely include inducing vomiting, using charcoal internally to draw out the toxins, administering intravenous fluids and monitoring kidney function. The sooner this process begins, the better the prognosis for your cat. You can also call an animal poison control center for further guidance.
It’s worth noting that lily of the valley is toxic to both cats and dogs, as it can cause life-threatening arrhythmias or even death.
The surest way to ensure that your cat doesn’t ingest any part of a toxic lily is to leave all lilies outside of your home! Even the highest perch won’t necessarily deter your cat, as most cat parents know—which means a lily placed anywhere in the house is usually reachable to a determined feline.
Dogs and Chocolate
Also according to the Pet Poison Helpline, although chocolate is toxic for both dogs and cats, canine ingestion of chocolate accounts for some 95 percent of their calls, as cats—finicky eaters—are less likely to consume it.
When determining levels of toxicity, two factors matter most: the type of chocolate (i.e. white, milk, dark or baking chocolate) and the quantity consumed in proportion to your dog’s size. The general rule for chocolate type is, the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. Additionally, regarding dog size, the rule is that ingesting more than 0.5 ounces of milk chocolate per pound of body weight—or 0.13 ounces per pound of body weight for dark chocolate—can put your dog at risk of poisoning. Furthermore, almost all instances of baking chocolate ingestion are considered medical emergencies, no matter the size of the dog.
Ingesting a small amount of chocolate might result in mild vomiting and diarrhea, but larger quantities could result in an elevated heart rate, tremors, seizures or collapsing. If you suspect your dog has ingested chocolate and is at risk of poisoning, it’s essential to seek medical treatment immediately.
Treatments will likely include inducing vomiting and administering charcoal to drawn out toxins, plus IV fluids, sedatives, heart medications, antacids and/or anti-seizure medication.
Prevention is Key
As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The best way to prevent lily poisoning in cats is to keep lilies out of your home altogether, and to prevent chocolate poisoning in dogs, make sure to keep all chocolate products—especially baking chocolate—well out of your dog’s reach. Finally, if you suspect poisoning in your animals, don’t wait: seek medical care immediately!