What dangers can spring bring to your pets?

Best not get too close, Mittens
"Chocolate can be especially poisonous to dogs, while lilies are the most common plant causing toxic ingestion poisoning for cats"
  • | by Catherine Evans

Spring is in the air!

Flowers blooming, newborn lambs frolicking in the fields and warmer weather tempting us outside to walk off those chocolatey Easter treats.

At this time of year, nature’s abundance and the signal of fresh starts and new beginnings can cause us to feel like we’ve not a care in the world.

But within that gloriously scented bouquet of colourful crocuses, lillies and daffs, lurks a hidden danger that could harm those we hold dearest – our pets.

What can be dangerous for cats and dogs?

cats with flowers body copy

Even the most innocuous-looking plants and flowers can provide a cocktail of poisons for cats and dogs. 

Plus the slug pellets, herbicides, fungicides and fertilisers we use to protect and nurture these plants can contain toxic substances such as metaldehyde and glyphosphate which are harmful to the animals we cherish as well as the pests we don’t.

And our efforts to clear our homes of dirt and dust during a seasonal spring clean can leave pets reeling from residues of a mixture of cleaning products.

Vet James Harris, Group Clinical Director of White Cross Vets, says: “There are many house and garden plants that are poisonous to dogs, including daffodil bulbs, delphiniums, foxgloves, sweet peas, tulip bulbs and hydrangeas.

“I personally have only ever seen tulip toxicity, but if your dog chews or eats any of these, seek veterinary help immediately.”

For our feline friends, it seems the risk is even greater. All plants, even grass, can have an irritating effect on a cat’s gastrointestinal system, causing it to vomit.

“Given the opportunity, cats like to nibble on grass. When not available, their attention may turn to less suitable household plants,” says Harris.

“Particularly dangerous are Dieffenbachia (Dumb Cane), and lilies, which are popular in bouquets and flower arrangements. The most dangerous plant toxicity we deal with is lily poisoning in cats, where even the pollen is highly toxic and can cause kidney failure. We see this on a regular basis, I’m afraid.”

Cat insurance

Keep Easter chocolate under wraps 

dog and easter eggs

And it’s not only lethal lillies that can cause harm to our pets in the springtime.

Our love of tasty chocolate treats might be shared by our pets, who will pull out all the stops and wide-eyed stares to win the coveted prize of a couple of shards of Easter egg. But it could cause them a lot more trouble than gaining a few extra pounds. 

Asked if chocolate is toxic to pets, Harris replied: “Absolutely. The higher the cocoa percentage, the greater the risk and so dark chocolate, particularly high quality 70% is most dangerous. We see chocolate poisoning frequently.”

Sunday roasts can also be harmful 

dog eating peas

Don’t be tempted to sneak any leftovers from your Easter feast under the table either, as you could be killing your canine with kindness.

“It is generally better to feed pets a high-quality proprietary pet food rather than human food,” says Harris.

“Some dogs are very sensitive to human foods, particularly high fat which can make them ill. The most important human foods to avoid are those containing onion, eg. baby food and various gravy products. Both cats and dogs are vulnerable to onion toxicity.

“Grapes and raisins should also be avoided and obviously no bones, particularly chicken and lamb bones.”

Dog insurance

Is my dog at risk of catching Alabama Rot?

dog in the bluebells
Alabama Rot (otherwise known as CRGV) is a disease that's affecting dogs in the UK in 2018. The Alabama Rot Research Fund reports that there have been 122 confirmed cases, 85% of which have been fatal.
According to vets4pets, the disease can be contracted by walking your pooch through muddy walks, and that any dog breed, of any weight or change, can contract the illness.
If left untreated, it can lead to fatal kidney failure, so it's imperative you follow advice about how to stop the disease in its tracks:
  • Wash off mud from woodlands as soon as you get home from a walk
  • Check your pooch for the symptoms of Alabama Rot. You may notice swellings and sore skin found near the elbow, knee or mouth, which could be mistaken for bites or bee stings. Read the full report here
If in doubt, call your vet and get them in the clinic for an appointment. 
If you'd like to know more about the disease in the UK, visit the Alabama Rot Research Fund charity (ARRF), and read Lulu's survivor's story.
Lifetime dog insurance

Will pet insurance cover spring's dangers?

dog loving life at the beach

When it comes to plant poisons and bee stings, the best policies will provide adequate cover, but always check with your provider in case springtime scares are excluded from your pet insurance policy.

According to the British Veterinary Association, such events are more common than we might expect.

Senior Vice President Gudrun Ravetz says: “Pets are naturally inquisitive, and will hunt out food and drink that can be hazardous to their health. On average, vets see one case of poisoning every month, with the most common cases including foods like chocolate, grapes, raisins and onions and seasonal plants like lilies.

“If you suspect your pet may have eaten something it shouldn’t, then don’t delay in contacting your local vet.

“Pet insurance can help with pet care costs in case of toxic ingestion, yet every pet is different, so owners must have a clear understanding of what is and is not covered by their insurance policy, to ensure it meets their expectations and their pet’s needs. 

“Owners should talk to their local vet about the different types of policies available and consult the Association of British Insurers’ ‘Pet Insurance Consumer Guide’ before making a decision.”