Easter treat warning for pet owners: How to protect your dogs and cats

Chocolate might be universally loved by humans, but it can be extremely harmful to our furry friends.

Experts have revealed the foods that could hurt your pets this Easter long weekend, along with what you should do in an emergency.

Dr Belinda Stancombe says there are four major players that cause health issues for dogs and cats over the holidays, and the biggest offender is chocolate.

Dog and cat both posing with Easter eggs
A surprising amount of popular Easter treats are toxic to dogs and cats. Source: Getty Images

Chocolate is poisonous to dogs and cats because it contains potentially fatal chemicals called methylxanthines, as well as theobromine and caffeine.

Generally speaking, darker chocolate varieties contain a higher cocoa content, meaning more theobromine and caffeine will make its way into your pet's diet.

Warning signs

When these chemicals are ingested by a cat or dog, their body is unable to metabolise the compounds, which will lead to visible signs of illness in your pet, such as:

  • Diarrhoea

  • Vomiting

  • Hyperactivity

  • Tremors

  • Seizures

  • Tachycardia (also known as a speeding heart rhythm with abnormal beats)

When an animal ingests chocolate and begins displaying these symptoms, they are experiencing "chocolate toxicity". In some cases, chocolate toxicity can lead to the animal’s death.

Dr Stancombe suggests that any families having an Easter egg hunt at home be wary of their dog or cat's whereabouts while chocolate is out and about, and always ensure that all eggs have been found prior to leaving any pet unattended.

What to do if your pet eats chocolate

Any pet that is showing signs of chocolate toxicity needs to be treated by a vet as soon as possible.

If you've noticed your pet has ingested chocolate recently, Dr Stancombe recommends utilising a chocolate toxicity calculator to determine the level of risk and urgency.

In most cases, immediate veterinary care will be required for the animal, with Dr Stancombe also warning pet owners to keep an eye on their pets after Easter as well.

"This means that your dog or cat may exhibit signs for a few days after ingestion, and ongoing hospitalisation may be required," she said.

Dark, milk and white chocolate
Although white chocolate does not contain theobromine, it has a very high fat content and will not sit well in a cat or dog's stomach. Source: Getty Images

Toxic Easter items

Dr Stancombe also revealed three other potentially dangerous Easter items for pets, and they're quite common.

  • Hot Cross Buns

One of our favourite Easter treats may prove to be toxic to our pets. Traditional hot cross buns contain sultanas and raisins, which pose a threat to cats and dogs' kidneys.

If an animal ingests a hot cross bun, Dr Stancombe recommends that the animal be taken to see a vet immediately.

  • Easter Lilies

The Easter Lily is a beautiful flower that many choose to display in their home over Easter, however they, along with all Lily species, are highly toxic to felines.

The consumption of any part of the plant, including the leaves, stem, flower, pollen or even the water from a vase, can result in fatal kidney failure.

It is recommended that cat owners avoid displaying lilies in their home, with Dr Stancombe recommending consideration when giving a lily as a gift.

"Lilies are very common in flower arrangements, so if you are giving a gift to a friend with cats, ensure it does not contain any lilies," she said.

More hidden dangers

Some other popular holiday foods that can be hazardous to pets include raisins, grapes and sultanas, onions, corn cobs, cooked bones and fatty barbecue foods.

"Fatty foods in barbecue leftovers can affect the animals' pancreas and lead to pancreatitis. Cooked bones can also cause major problems. They're brittle and the sharp slivers can either lodge in the throat or pierce the stomach lining," says Dr Chester.

The number 1300 TOX PET (1300 689 738) as well as 24 hour veterinary clinics are also available to assist in the event that a pet consumes unsafe food this Easter.

Do you have a story tip? Email: newsroomau@yahoonews.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Store or Google Play.