Easter is nearly here and whether we celebrate or not, most of us will enjoy spending some quality holiday time with our family and our pets. With all that time to fill it may be a good opportunity to focus on our pets and perhaps teach them something new. Dogs, cats, rabbits, rodents, ferrets and even birds can all be trained to perform simple tricks. Find a treat they really love to reward them for behaviour and they will usually repeat it.
As we know, basic training for dogs is a necessity, but training is great for all types of pets and can be lots of fun for you and them. Training using positive reinforcement can really strengthen the bond between you and your pet, it is also wonderful for mentally stimulating your pet and can be a great form of exercise. New tricks are a great way of showing off how clever your pet is to other people and also a brilliant way for children to be involved with pet care. Clicker training is a great way to train your pets, have a look at our previous pet training article for more information and ideas.
Sadly the Easter holidays can also bring a few hazards to our pets, so be on the look out for the following
Chocolate, Sweets and other treats
Easter foods and pets are never a good mix! Your dog or cat may love the smell and the taste but did you know that chocolate and some sweets are toxic and even a small amount consumed can be really bad news. It’s also usually dogs who are affected , because most cats are far too sensible to want to eat chocolate and sweets!
Why is chocolate poisonous?
Chocolate contains substances called Methylxanthines such as caffeine and theobromine, which dogs are far more sensitive to than people. We humans can break down and get rid of methylxanthines but unfortunately our pets can only metabolise them very slowly, which leads to a rapid build up of harmful toxins. Different types of chocolate contain different amounts of methylxanthines and as a general rule the darker (and usually more expensive!) the chocolate the greater the danger.
Symptoms of chocolate poisoning may include:
- Restlessness / hyperactivity
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Increased Heart Rate
- High body temperature
- Muscle twitching/tremors
- Lack of coordination
There is no hard and fast rule as to how much chocolate is poisonous, it very much depends on the type of chocolate and the size, age and health of the dog.
Why are Sweets Poisonous?
Many sweets contain a natural sweetener called Xylitol, which is unfortunately highly toxic to some animals. When an animal eats something containing xylitol it is absorbed into the bloodstream, which results very quickly in a large amount of insulin being released into the body. Within minutes this insulin drastically decreases the level of blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Left untreated, hypoglycemia can be life-threatening.
Symptoms of Xylitol poisoning/ Hypoglycemia can include
- Depression or lethargy
- Incoordination or difficulty walking or standing
Xylitol is estimated to be 100 times more toxic to animals than chocolate! The level of toxicity depends on how much Xylitol is in the product but can be as little as a few sweeties or 2 sticks of chewing gum.
Other Easter Treats
These can include things like simnel cake and hot cross buns, which may contain raisins, sultanas and/or currants (all part of the grape family) which are highly toxic to pets. The ingestion of these fruits can result in severe gastro intestinal upsets and kidney failure, but unfortunately it is still not clear why this happens in pets. Effects are usually seen within 6-24 hours after eating the fruit, but toxicity from the amount of fruit eaten will vary from pet to pet, with some having severe clinical symptoms after eating just one or two fruits.
Symptoms of raisin/currant/sultana/grape toxicity can include
- Increased drinking or urination
Preventing A Problem Is Easier & Safer Than Curing One
Around Easter time chocolate and sweets are in abundance in many households. Ensure that these treats are kept out of reach of your pets and educate your children so that they know never to feed chocolate or sweets to the animals.
In Case Of Emergency
If you are at all worried about your pet’s health or are worried that he or she has eaten something that they shouldn’t of then please contact your vet, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Castle Vets are open 24 hours a day, every day. Emergency cover is provided by Vets Now are on duty at our practice overnight and during the bank holidays, they are fully staffed by qualified professionals to ensure that your pet will always be cared for.
Don’t forget your rabbits may be at risk if their vaccinations are not kept up to date. Myxomatosis is spread by biting insects such as mosquitos, rabbit fleas and mites, which all start to become more active at this time of year.
Easter Bunny Plea
Before you decide to get a rabbit for a child this Easter, please be aware that Rabbits do not make good starter pets for children.
- Rabbits require a lifetime commitment of care for at least 8-12 years
- They cost at least as much as a cat and dog in terms of set up and routine veterinary care.
- They need at least one other rabbit companion (yes, that means twice the cost!)
- Spacious living quarters of at least 6ft x 2ft x 2ft (this will need to be bigger if more than 2 rabbits are kept there) plus an outside exercise area of at least 8ft x 4ft x 4ft; preferably adjoined to their living quarters so they can exercise freely when it suits them.
- One or both rabbits may need to be neutered.
- Daily exercise
- Daily handling,
- A proper diet
You can see our care sheet on Caring For Rabbits for more information.
If your family is not prepared for the long-term commitment and cost of a pair of rabbits, please give your child a toy as an Easter gift. That way when the child loses interest (and most kids do!), the poor rabbits will not end up neglected or abandoned.
Every year, many thousands of rabbits are handed over to rescue centers or, worse, released outside (a death sentence for a domestic rabbit) often because the adults who bought them misunderstood the amount of care they need or the child gets bored and won’t care for their pet anymore.
Please, please don’t buy a rabbit on impulse. Think about what you are doing and learn about rabbit care first, if you are sure you want to go ahead consider adopting a pair of rabbits from your local shelter or rescue group rather than buying from a pet store.