EASTER is a time when many families and friends have the opportunity to get together and enjoy a long weekend.

There’s something to tickle every tastebud, with chocolate eggs, simnel cake and hot cross buns galore.

As a vet, this is often a hectic time of year when we see many pets needing an emergency trip to the practice after getting their paws on something they shouldn’t.

There is so much temptation around for dogs and it is a time when I would encourage owners to be extra vigilant and keep those delicious treats locked away from their pets.

The team at Dunedin Vets expects to see a rise in the number of pets brought in after eating something they shouldn’t have in the run-up to Easter, over the holiday weekend and in days and even weeks afterwards.

Chocolate eggs, sweets and hot cross buns may be tempting treats, but sadly they can be potentially fatal if eaten by pets.

East Lothian Courier: Easter treats can really impact the health of a petEaster treats can really impact the health of a pet

Chocolate and products containing cocoa contain a chemical called theobromine that dogs cannot break down. The darker the chocolate, the higher the cocoa content, and even small amounts can cause heart problems, fits and affect the kidneys.

Raisins and sultanas in hot cross buns and simnel cake can also be toxic to pets, while the traditional Easter Sunday dinner can cause problems with gastroenteritis or choking on bones.

Whether it’s caused by well-meaning owners treating their pets with chocolate or dogs helping themselves to Easter eggs that have been accidentally left within their reach, we see a lot of pets needing treatment for chocolate poisoning at this time of year.

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning can include vomiting, diarrhoea and increased heart rate, and it can lead to seizures and cardiac failure. Darker chocolate carries a greater risk of poisoning and, the smaller the dog, the more dangerous eating chocolate is.

Some people may prefer sweets to chocolate, but be aware that many of these contain an artificial sweetener called xylitol, which is toxic to pets.

East Lothian Courier: It is not just chocolate that can cause sickness in petsIt is not just chocolate that can cause sickness in pets

The safest option is to keep all chocolate and sweets locked away and well out of reach, but if you suspect your pet has eaten anything toxic, call your veterinary practice straight away.

While it’s tempting to give your pet some of your traditional Easter roast, turkey and lamb are rich and fatty and can increase the risk of gastroenteritis and occasionally lead to pancreatitis.

Cooked meat bones can also cause choking, a blockage or perforate the intestine.

Even the most well-behaved pets can be tempted to steal food, so make sure they can’t reach the tops of cookers or kitchen worktops, and that bins containing leftovers aren’t accessible.

East Lothian Courier: Chocolate should not be kept in reach of petsChocolate should not be kept in reach of pets

To help everyone enjoy a happy Easter, here are my eight useful tips for pet owners:

  1. Keep Easter eggs out of reach of your dog, as chocolate can cause hyperactivity, an elevated heart rate and seizures;
  2. Don’t let dogs eat hot cross buns because the grapes, raisins, currants and sultanas they contain can be toxic to pets;
  3. Flowers are popular Easter gifts but they can make pets very ill. Daffodils, tulips and crocuses are toxic, especially if dogs dig up and eat the bulbs, while lilies can cause kidney failure in cats;
  4. Keep stuffed cuddly toy bunnies and chicks and plastic toys away from dogs because they can be chewed or swallowed, causing choking or blockages;
  5. Do not give your pet lamb, turkey or chicken bones, and be vigilant about them stealing from the Easter dinner table;
  6. Prevent pets having access to alcohol. It has the same effect on a dog’s liver and brain that it has on humans and is potentially fatal;
  7. Avoid feeding scraps from the table. Rich, fatty foods can result in vomiting or diarrhoea and lead to an increased risk of pancreatitis, a painful and serious condition;
  8. Keep onions and garlic – powdered, raw, cooked, or dehydrated – away from your dog. They can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and anaemia.