(BERLIN, Md.) - While springtime typically brings joy and new motivation for humans, it can also bring stress and new dangers for pets.
“Through Easter, we do see a lot more lilies and a lot more chocolate,” said Dr. Lauren Carlson, a veterinarian at VCA Delmarva Animal Hospital in Berlin. “But I always talk about it with my clientele, making sure Easter time we know the dangers.”
Although the message is getting out, there are some pet parents who are still unaware of these dangers.
"We had one cat patient a couple years ago come in for a nail trim and we noticed some pollen on her nose,” said Dr. Carlson. “We asked about it and the owner had no idea that lilies were toxic. We ended up hospitalizing [the cat] for three days.”
Dr. Carlson says lilies are “extremely toxic” to cats and can cause acute kidney failure within a matter of days.
“It doesn’t matter which part of the lily is ingested – the pollen, the leaves, the petals, the stems, any part of the flower – it can still be extremely toxic to the kidneys,” explained Dr. Carlson. “My theory is just don’t have them in the house. Even if you have them outside, it can be dangerous.”
Dr. Carlson says there’s no real answer as to why cats like to eat plants, but if you do have a plant-eater, try cat grass (or wheat grass), which is a safer alternative.
“I noticed that cats that eat plants will continue to do it. There’s nothing we can do to deter that behavior other than making sure the plants that are inside are safe for them.”
While some plants aren’t as toxic as others, Dr. Carlson says pet parents should always be on alert.
“In cases of peace lilies and calla lilies, their kidneys aren’t going to be affected, but there are little crystals in the stems and in the leaves that can cause oral irritation, so you’ll see vomiting, drooling and their mouth will ulcerate.”
And it’s not just plants that pet parents should avoid.
“One of the most common items that pets tend to get themselves into is the fertilizer that we use in our gardens, specifically ones with organophosphates,” said Dr. Carlson.
According to Dr. Carlson, pets that are exposed to organophosphates may experience excessive salivation and lethargy. They may even become unresponsive.
"If you’re worried about that at all, seek immediate veterinary attention. If they’re just salivating a lot and you think they got into it but you’re not sure, definitely save the bag and call a poison control hot-line or bring the bag with you to the vet so they know exactly what they got into.”
Lastly, Dr. Carlson says pet parents should also be mindful of where they place their flu medications and household cleaners as we head into the warmer season.
“With flu season being around, we definitely want to make sure that if our pets get into any of our medications that we bring them to the vet right away to make sure they get ‘detoxified’ so we can give them appropriate medical care,” said Dr. Carlson. “Also, as we begin our springtime cleaning, be mindful of where you put any anti-freeze. Keeping it out of sight on a high shelf is perfect. Rat and gopher bait [poisoning] are also big ones that we see. It can cause severe coagulation problems, so we’ll see bleeding issues in dogs that ingest rat bait.”
To be safe, Dr. Carlson suggests pet owners download the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s (APCC) free mobile app, which helps owners quickly identify over 300 potential everyday hazards.