NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

March 8, 2013

Paw Prints: Help pets celebrate spring holidays safely

Paw Prints, Heidi Bassler
veterinarian

---- — Two fun holidays fill this month’s calendar. That’s two reasons to celebrate, and at least two reasons to think how these celebrations may affect our pets.

St. Patrick’s Day is the first visitor. Bay Staters love this holiday. It reminds us of our heritage and gives us a chance to relax with friends.

Shamrock plants symbolize St. Paddy’s Day and are popular household accents in March. Be careful because they contain soluble oxylates, which can be toxic to pets. Fortunately for Fido and Fluffy, shamrock tastes bitter, so they rarely eat enough for serious toxicity. Nevertheless, it might be best not to tempt your luck on St. Paddy’s Day, and keep this plant away from your pets.

If you want to be festive with your pet on March 17, that’s OK. Add a few drops of green food coloring to Fido’s and Fluffy’s water, and they can have fun with you. Beer or other alcohol isn’t funny for four-legged creatures, so keep this safely away from your pooch and his pals.

The Easter bunny will hop into our homes a couple of weeks later. People celebrate Easter in many different ways. Here are a few ways to keep this holiday fun and safe for your pets, too.

If you have a cat, keep Easter lilies out of your home. Those beautiful, fragrant flowers are a favorite at this time of year, but they are deadly poisonous for cats. Without immediate emergency treatment, a nibble of leaf or flower can shut down your cat’s kidneys in a day.

Other lilies found in cut bouquets are toxic, too. So if a well-intentioned guest stops by with fancy flowers, do a quick lily check. It could save your cat’s life. Fortunately for Fido, only felines are susceptible to this serious and rapid renal toxin.

But your pooch isn’t off the hook during Easter. Dogs taste sweet and they like chocolate. Whether it’s shaped like a bunny or an egg, chocolate is a no-no for dogs. Minor symptoms include tummy upset or jitters, which can progress to heart problems and even death. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. And the more Fido eats, the more likely he’ll get sick. However, since cats don’t have a sweet tooth, chocolate isn’t tempting for them.

Holidays and celebrations often have associated food fests, and Easter is no different. Meaty meals with lamb or ham are popular, but best to keep this for the two-legged family members. Sudden diet change in pets can cause tummy aches, and fatty food may trigger pancreatitis.

Be careful, also, not to share the bone from Easter dinner with your dog. It may be fun to watch him gnawing with delight, until — oops — he cracks his tooth. Chewing on bones is the No. 1 reason dogs fracture their teeth. Spare your dog this pain, and the subsequent oral surgery he’ll need, by tossing the bone in the trash.

If you want to have Easter fun with your pets, decorate hard-boiled eggs and have an Easter hunt with Fido and Fluffy. Then sit down and share a few bites with them. Eggs are typically easy to digest, and most pets tolerate a nibble without difficulty.

Colorful faux grass is often used in Easter basket decorations. Some pets like to play with this. Cats are more frequent victims than dogs because it’s a more tantalizing toy for them. Problems arise if they chew or swallow the grass. It can act as a string blade, sawing through their tender intestines as it passes through. These pets need rapid diagnosis and surgery to save their lives.

Finally, a mention about pets and the Easter holiday. Some people adopt baby bunnies at this time of year. It might be a gift for a child, or an impulse buy. Remember that bunnies quickly grow up into adult rabbits. Their care is very different than that for cats and dogs. If you’re considering buying a bunny later this month, be sure to do your homework so that you’ll know if an adult rabbit is the right pet for you this summer and for years to come.

By following a few simple precautions, you won’t need luck from a four-leaf clover to keep this month happy and healthy for your furry family members.

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Dr. Heidi Bassler practices at Bassler Veterinary Hospital (www.BasslerVet.com). She hosts a radio show, “Your Pet’s Health,” every Sunday morning at 8:30 on AM-1450 WNBP. Do you have questions for Dr. Bassler? Send them to heidibasslerdvm@comcast.net.