Easter Foods that are Toxic to Pets

Last Updated 1 APRIL 2021

This article is written by Pet Circle Veterinarian, Dr Carla Paszkowski BVSc.

Easter is upon us! It's time to get excited about all those delicious Easter treats about to come our way. Even if you're not religiously inclined, you'd be hard pressed to find an Aussie who doesn't love cracking the chocolate ears off a bunny and biting into a warm, bakery-fresh hot cross bun.

But as harmless as Easter treats may be for us, the same can't be said for our furry friends. Chocolate and hot cross buns both pose a dangerous risk to our furry friends.

1. Chocolate
- Why is chocolate toxic?
- Symptoms of Chocolate toxicity
- Dark vs Light Chocolate
- Chocolate toxicity calculator
- What to do if your pet eats chocolate
- Pancreatitis from Chocolate

2. Hot Cross Bun Toxicity

3. Macadamia Nut Toxicity

4. Pet-Safe Easter Treats

1. Chocolate

Chocolate Toxicity

Chocolate is poisonous to dogs and cats because it contains chemicals known as methylxanthines. In particular, the methylxanthines chocolate contains are theobromine and caffeine. Both of these are toxic to cats and dogs because they can't metabolise these compounds as well as humans can.

What are the symptoms of chocolate toxicity?

The darker the chocolate, the higher the toxicity

There are many levels of chocolate dilution: white, milk, dark milk, dark, bitter black, etc. Generally, the darker the chocolate, the higher the cocoa content, which means the more theobromine and caffeine there is.

White chocolate contains virtually zero theobromine, and only poses a risk due to its high fat content. Milk chocolate contains 44 mg per ounce of theobromine, and dark chocolate contains around 390 mg per ounce.

In order to calculate whether your dog has ingested a toxic level of theobromine, you will need to know your dog's weight, the darkness of the chocolate, and how many grams were likely consumed. If it is not clear how much chocolate was actually consumed, the largest possible amount should be determined based on how much chocolate is missing.

Chocolate Toxicity Calculator

Calculator provided by PetCare Pet Insurance

What to do if your dog ingests chocolate

1. Do a quick calculation with a chocolate toxicity calculator. This will help you determine the level of risk and therefore urgency. Please note that if your dog is showing symptoms, the first step should be to get your dog to a vet right away.

2. If your dog has only just eaten the chocolate within 10 minutes, it may be possible to induce vomiting. We suggest phoning your vet for advice on how to safely make your dog vomit.

3. If your dog ingested the chocolate more than 10 minutes prior, AND it is a toxic dose, hospitalization and support are needed.

It can take four days for the theobromine to work its way out of your dog’s system. This means that your dog may exhibit signs for a few days after ingestion, and ongoing hospitalisation may be required.

Chocolate and Pancreatitis

Aside from theobromine and caffeine toxicity, chocolate poses another significant risk to pets due to its high fat content. A sudden high fat meal (such as demolishing a block of chocolate) can create a deadly disease called pancreatitis.

The high level of fat stimulates the pancreas to work overtime as it attempts to secrete enough digestive enzymes to metabolise it. This leads to an inflamed and extremely painful pancreas. Vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain are just the beginning of this illness - it may soon progress to infection, fever, and irreversible organ damage. Dogs who suffer from pancreatitis may never be able to eat fatty treats again without a flare up.

Hot Cross Buns

Why are Hot Cross Buns Toxic to Pets?

The risk of toxicity from hot cross buns is lower than chocolate, but worth mentioning nonetheless. The culprits here are the sultanas and raisins.

Often found in traditional hot cross buns, grapes and their dehydrated versions can actually cause kidney failure in cats and dogs. The exact mechanism of this is unknown, so it is impossible to calculate a universal toxic dose. Best to keep them out of reach!

Macadamia nuts

Also worth mentioning as they are often found within a delicious slab of boutique chocolate, macadamia nuts are highly poisonous to dogs. While the exact cause of the toxicosis is unknown, signs of macadamia nut poisoning include an inability to walk or stand, wobbly gait, tremors, hyperthermia, and vomiting. If encased in their shell, they can also pose a risk as a gastrointestinal foreign body. Yikes! Be sure to keep these crunchy morsels out of reach.

Pet Safe Easter Treats

Enough about the nasties - let's talk about what you CAN feed your pet at Easter. Just because most human Easter treats are toxic doesn't mean that your pet has to miss out on getting a treat of their own!

With all this in mind, you and your fur baby will be able to have a happy, healthy Easter free from any unexpected vet visits!

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