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Thinking Outside the Basket

By Sarah A. Balaguer, DVM, MS


As the Easter holiday approaches, several considerations are in order for your pet’s safety. There are a number of different potential health hazards, such as chocolates, sugary candies, small toys, and basket stuffing, which can pose a serious threat to your household pets. It is important to monitor your pets closely, especially when offering them special treats of their own for the holiday season. For example, the filling in stuffed animals can cause a pet that ingests an excessive quantity to gag or cough repeatedly from the irritation during the swallowing process. This is particularly troublesome for dogs that have a preexisting throat problem such as a collapsing trachea or chronic allergies. Excessive filling ingestion can even pose a threat to the extreme of forming an intestinal blockage. Stuffed toys with plastic eyes or accessories can lead to oral cavity or digestive tract trauma during and after ingestion.

Chocolate, depending on type and quantity consumed, can lead to hyperexcitability, gastrointestinal disease, or even seizures. Sugar-free candies containing xylitol can lead to a dangerous drop in blood sugar levels that can ultimately lead to seizures, coma, or death. Regular sugary candies can lead to vomiting and diarrhea of varying degrees. This can be a major problem for certain breeds of dogs that are highly susceptible to serious digestive issues such as pancreatitis or hemorrhagic gastroenteritis.

Easter basket stuffing, such as the artificial plastic grass, can be extremely dangerous particularly around our feline friends. Cats have a tendency to enjoy playing with and eating string style items. Strings are an extremely dangerous digested foreign item as they can become attached to the base of the tongue. The string may saw into the tongue leading to tremendous pain and an oral infection. Larger quantities of string can become lodged in the stomach and as the gastrointestinal tract continues to contract the string can cut through the intestinal wall. This can lead to a very painful and life threatening infection or inflammation of the abdominal cavity.

There are a slew of other dangers to consider during any holiday season when it comes to our curious furry friends. The most important thing to remember is to be aware of what your pets have access to and try to avoid putting your pet into a situation where temptation cannot be avoided. Store all potential toxins away out of their reach. When getting your companion their own holiday toys or treats, be sure and choose wisely.