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Spring Tips for Pet Safety

Below are listed some spring associated pet hazards that potentially could occur because of their appearance (in the case of plants), heavy residential usage or holiday associated prevalence during this time of year. Hopefully this list will help you to minimize risk of exposure or to recognize an imminent pet health problem before it becomes more serious.

  • 1)Poisonous Plants –
  • Lawn and garden products
  • Easter basket items –
  • Candy – chocolate, nuts and raisins => already discussed in previous blog posts. For quick review, you can read these posts - http://baltimorevet.net/2014/10/09/chocolate-toxicity/ and
  • Jerky treats continue to be in the news, in this case involving a product purportedly made in the US.  From a Veterinary Information Network report: As a regular treat, a 5-pound terrier was given Spot Farms “all-natural chicken strips. The strips are described on the product website as made from “antibiotic-free chicken raised on family farms in Kentucky. An additional remark: “In light of the ongoing mystery, Giger (Dr. Urs Giger, a veterinarian at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine) suggested that pet owners consider refraining from giving any commercial jerky treats to their pets. “While some may think pets cannot be without jerky treats, I do not consider them as part of a healthy diet or treat, even when labeled ‘all natural,’ and thus, currently do not recommend any,” he said.”
  • Tulip/Narcissus: The bulb portions of Tulipa/Narcissus spp. contain toxins that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation, drooling, loss of appetite, depression of the central nervous system, convulsions and cardiac abnormalities.
  • Azalea/Rhododendron:  Members of the Rhododenron spp. contain substances known as grayantoxins, which can produce vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, weakness and depression of the central nervous system in animals. Severe azalea poisoning could ultimately lead to coma and death from cardiovascular collapse.
  • Chrysanthemum:  These popular blooms are part of the Compositae family, which contain pyrethrins that may produce gastrointestinal upset, including drooling, vomiting and diarrhea, if eaten. In certain cases depression and loss of coordination may also develop if enough of any part of the plant is consumed.
  • English Ivy:
  • Peace Lily (AKA Mauna Loa Peace Lily):  Spathiphyllum contains calcium oxalate crystals that can cause oral irritation, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing and intense burning and irritation of the mouth, lips and tongue in pets who ingest.
  • Onions and chives:

Also called branching ivy, glacier ivy, needlepoint ivy, sweetheart ivy and California ivy,Hedera helix contains triterpenoid saponins that, should pets ingest, can result in vomiting, abdominal pain, hypersalivation and diarrhea.

Commonly found in outdoor spring gardens, onion and chive ingestion can lead to red blood cell abnormalities with alteration in oxygen carrying capacity (if consumed in large enough quantities.

A more complete list of poisonous plants can be found by clicking onto to this link:


  • Cocoa mulch - cocoa bean hulls are reported to have 255 mg/oz theobromine. See also this link - http://www.aspcapro.org/sites/pro/files/cocoa-mulch.pdf. It is now available for sale in the Baltimore metro area.
  • Fertilizer - fertilizers, which can be made of dried blood, poultry manure and bone meal, are very attractive to pets,; the National Animal Poison Control Center gets many calls (almost 3,600 in 2012) on lawn and garden items.
  • Insect/ pest baits - over 50% of the calls to the Poison Control Center involving cats pertain to felines exposed to insecticides.
  • Rodenticides (mouse and rat baits) – these are attractive to pets because the lure is often contained within a grain based bait. These can antagonize the action of Vitamin K leading to a bleeding tendency or are Vitamin D analogs that result in  calcium absorption with resultant kidney damage to the poisoned animal. Ingestion can be direct or secondary from ingestion of poisoned rodents.
  • Recall last week’s topic – use gloves when gardening to avoid inadvertent parasite infection. [Link provided as soon as it is posted.]
  • a)Cellulose Easter Grass - colorful Easter grass looks bright and cheerful lining an Easter basket for children. However, Easter grass, when ingested by a pet could lead to a bowel obstruction, especially in felines. Grass such as this, like ingested ribbon or string will lead to the development of a “linear foreign body” obstruction as one end of the grass becomes anchored in a segment of the bowel. The free end of the grass extends further downstream where the bowel accordions itself onto the string as a result of peristaltic bowel movement. An obstruction results and surgical intervention becomes necessary to remove the foreign body and eliminate the points of obstruction, as well as prevent damage to the inside of the bowel where the sawing movement of the grass or string occurs.  If you see a cat with Easter grass in its mouth, do not attempt to pull it out of his throat. To attempt to do so may just exacerbate the danger. Instead, take the cat immediately to a veterinary hospital or emergency clinic. Better yet, avoid the potential altogether by leaving the grass out of the basket. Instead, use colorful crumpled wrapping tissue to line the basket.
  • b)Dyed Easter Eggs - it has recently come to light that some commercial Easter egg dyes contain sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), which may be harmful to children if ingested in large enough quantities. If a cat licked enough of the dyes off the eggs, it could also cause intestinal tract distress. A safe alternative consists of substituting food coloring or natural dyes such as beet or spinach juice.
  • c)In any case, care should be taken, both for humans and cats, that Easter eggs be refrigerated within two hours after putting the eggs out for an egg hunt. Staphylococcal bacteria can cause food poisoning and it can develop rapidly in eggs left out in a warm environment. Also, cracked eggs should not even be cooked, but discarded immediately to avoid the potential for salmonella poisoning.
  • d)Candy Wrappers - be aware that seemingly innocuous candy wrappings could cause problems for pets too. They hold the same interest that Easter grass does because pets are drawn to the texture, bright colors and crinkly sounds of these wrappings. Many pets, especially cats and puppies, often consume them unintentionally while playing with them. When pets eat these items, they can cause intestinal upset or even an intestinal obstruction.



Authored by Robert Z Berry, DVM

Source material:  Animal Poison Control Center information and Veterinary Information Network published information