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Easter Toxicities

Chocolate and Hot Cross Buns may be nice treats for us, but they can be deadly for our pets. Easter Lilies are beautiful, but can have severe consequences for cat owners. With plenty of these three things around over Easter, the risk of deadly toxicities is high.


Dogs are more commonly affected by chocolate toxicity than cats but only because they are more likely to eat it if they find it. However, both dogs and cats can become very sick if they do eat any chocolate. Chocolate and cocoa contains a chemical called theobromine that is harmless for us but can cause very serious sickness in dogs and cats. The caffeine present in chocolate can also be toxic. Dogs and cats can’t metabolise theobromine like we can, which makes them very sensitive to its effects.

Milk chocolate and dark chocolate contain significant amounts of theobromine and will cause serious poisoning without treatment. White chocolate contains less theobromine, but the caffeine content can still cause serious disease. There is a big variation in how each individual reacts to the chocolate. Some animals may only need a little to show clinical signs, while others may not be as sensitive. The problem is that it is almost impossible to know until it is too late.

The effects of chocolate poisoning can vary depending on what type of chocolate the animal has eaten, how much they’ve eaten and how long it has been in their digestive tract. The most common signs seen with chocolate toxicity are restlessness, vomiting, diarrhoea, increased thirst and/or urination, muscle tremors, seizures and respiratory distress. Some or all of these signs may be present and, if left untreated, can be fatal.

The treatment for chocolate toxicity begins with causing the animal to vomit, preventing more toxin from being absorbed into the blood stream. Sometimes animals require hospitalisation and need to be given fluids directly into the blood stream. The animal may be given a substance called “activated charcoal” which helps to bind up any toxin left in the digestive tract and also reduces how much toxin is absorbed. This activated charcoal may be given for up to 3 days after the animal has eaten the chocolate. If the animal is showing signs such as persistent vomiting or seizures then further treatment, medications and monitoring in hospital may be needed.

Grapes & Raisins

It is not well understood why grapes, raisins and their varieties are toxic to our pets, but cases of toxicities have been well documents for many years. The toxic dose of these foods also seems to vary between individuals, with some animals eating small amounts with seemingly no illness, while others require intensive treatment. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell which animals will become ill and which animals won’t until it’s too late.

Kidney injury and disease is the most common outcome following grape and raising ingestion. The most common signs of grape and raisin toxicity are vomiting (usually within 24 hours), lethargy, reduced appetite, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, excessive thirst and changes in urination patterns (ranging from excessive urination to no urine production). Some or all of these signs may be present and, if left untreated, can be fatal.

​The treatment for grape or raisin toxicity is similar to chocolate toxicity in the early stages. Causing the animal to vomit as much of the ingested grapes or raisins as possible helps to reduce the amount of toxin absorbed into the blood stream. Hospitalisation for intravenous fluids is often recommended, and administration of activated charcoal may be started. Other medications to control nausea may be given, and close monitoring is required to ensure that the animal is producing urine normally.

Lily Toxicity in Cats

Like grape & raisin toxicity, it is poorly understood why lilies are toxic to cats, but many cases are well documented. All parts of the plant are considered toxic, not just the pollen or flower, and even very small amounts can cause severe disease. Lilies do not seem to be toxic to dogs, only cats.

Sudden onset kidney failure is the most common outcome following exposure to lilies. The most common signs seen are lethargy, weakness, reduced or absent appetite, vomiting, and changes in urination patterns (ranging from excessive urination to no urine production).

The treatment for lily toxicity and the subsequent acute kidney injury is aggressive intravenous fluid therapy, pain management and anti-nausea medications. Kidney injury and subsequent failure can be very difficult to manage and treat, and even successful treatment can result in the cat suffering from chronic kidney disease that will lead to ongoing management and treatment needs, and decrease their life expectancy considerably.

Often the sooner than animal is treated, the faster the treatment works and the better the outcome.

If you have any questions or you suspect that your pet has eaten any chocolate (white, milk or dark), any grape or raisin varieties, or your cat has had any contact with Lillies, please contact us straight away on 07 3297 0803 and come down to our clinic.​
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