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Credit: Dave Fayram on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Easter can be loads of fun for kids and adults but a hazardous holiday weekend for pets. Years ago, I was given Easter lilies from a patient. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I have cats at home (lilies are highly toxic to cats) so I left them at the office.

Lily of the ValleyColleen (pearlshelf on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericI wondered if lilies were also toxic to dogs or other pets. Apparently, Lily of the Valley (shown at right), sometimes written lily-of-the-valley, (Convallaria majalis) can cause severe heart arrhythmias, slowed heart rate, seizures, and death if ingested by dogs or cats.
 
An Easter treat that affects dogs, cats, and ferrets is chocolate (with dark chocolate being the worst for pets). I went into greater detail about chocolate in Important Halloween Safety Tips from Veterinarians
 
An artificial sweetener named xylitol (found in gum, candy, baked goods, mouthwashes, toothpastes, medicines, and chewable vitamins) is highly toxic to dogs, yet is not known to be toxic to cats.
 
It's hard to predict what the exact quantity of xylitol is that causes hypoglycemia, seizures, coma, liver failure, or death in dogs. And dogs come in various sizes. So be sure that your backpack, briefcase, pockets, or purse are not left out where a curious doggie can find the xylitol-containing mints or gum you may have left in there. Be mindful of guests that leave their bags wide open in your home during the holidays too.
 
100_9867  The cats playing with the Easter basketAlisha Vargas on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericThe truth is cats tend to avoid sweets, yet they like stringy things (like Easter basket "grass"). Dogs like to chew on plastic Easter eggs that might break open (releasing chocolate treats) or become a life-threatening intestinal obstruction. 
 
Easter egg hunts can be a hazard for your pet, so it's important you keep track of (make a list) of where eggs are hidden. You don't want to leave any around for a pet to find later.
 
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the top five Easter toxins for pets are: chocolate, lilies, Easter plastic grass, table food (especially garlic, grapes, macadamia nuts, onions, and raisins), and herbicides (people often begin their yard work Easter weekend and toxic chemicals can become accessible to pets).
 
Up next is an important reminder from Dr. Jennifer Jaycox published on June 1st, 2014 by Animal Medical Clinic in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Easter Pet Safety Video by Dr. Jennifer Jaycox

With Mother's Day Around the Corner

Although I knew that lilies were toxic to cats, I wanted to know which ones were the most dangerous and exactly what they looked like. I also wondered how safe daffodils are for pets and what kind of flowers are a safe alternative to give during Easter and for Mother's Day.

July 3 - Camera ResurrectionDavid Morris (revdave on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericDuring my research, I was alarmed to learn that every part of a "true" lily can kill a cat - and fairly rapidly (within 72 hours). The pollen, fallen leaves, or the water they are stored in are highly toxic to cats and cause acute kidney failure.

In fact, veterinarians advise that lilies with Latin names that include Lilium or Hemerocallis never enter a home or be accessible to an outdoor cat either.

If you are aware of a cat that comes in contact with a lily, he or she must be treated by a veterinarian within a matter of hours.

Up next is a must-see public service announcement by Lisa Larson. I agree with the plea at the end of her video which states:

"Contact your congressperson. Ask if they would be willing to sponsor a bill requiring florists and retailers to place notifications on lilies."

Lilies Can Kill Cats by Lisa Larson

Pawstalk Animal Communication & Reiki

Keep Cats Away From These Lilies

Even the Pollen or Water From the Vase is Deadly

As shown previously and below, Easter lilies (Lilium longiflorum) are considered a symbol of the resurrection of Christ. I see them planted around churches and always hope that outdoor cats do not come in contact with them. 

Tiger lilies (Lilium lancifolium) are also known as Lilium tigrinum and are sometimes mistakenly identified as Ditch lilies (Hemerocallis fulva). But all are potentially fatal flowers if a cat even licks them.

Lilium lancifolium (Tiger Lillies) in the photographer's gardenVanhoand at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia CommonsSometimes lily blooms are so heavy that they hang upside down (like those shown at right). A cat could easily rub against these flowers, get pollen on his or her fur, groom and become deathly ill.

Again, the most deadly to cats are lilies with the Lilium and Hemerocallis latin names. Lilies are not toxic to dogs or horses.

The clinical signs to look for in a cat that has come in contact with a lily are: vomiting, inappetence (lack of appetite), lethargy, kidney failure, and death.

Cats are the only species known to be affected. Contact your veterinarian or animal hospital or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 if you suspect a kitten or cat has ingested any part of a lily.

Up next are a series of photos of the most deadly types of lilies for felines to be around.

Easter or Mother's Day Flowers (Lilium Longiflorum)

Lilium longiflorum  Mother's Day Lilies - this year (2013)
Credit: A Yee on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Tiger Lily (Lilium Lancifolium or Lilium Tigrinum)

Wet Tiger Lily
Credit: Audrey (audreyjm529 on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Day Lilies aka Daylilies (Hemerocallis Lilioasphodelus)

Day lilies
Credit: Leimenide on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Asiatic Hybrid Lilies (Lilium) Come in Many Colours

Asiatic Hybrid Lilies
Credit: Gail Frederick on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Pink Japanese Lily (Lilium Speciosum)

Pink Japanese Lily
Credit: Tony Fischer (tonythemisfi on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Another Japanese Lily (Lilium Speciosum Clivorum)

Lilium speciosum clivorum
Credit: Instrumaker on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Rubrum Lily (Lilium Speciosum Cultivar)

Rubrum oriental lilies
Credit: naturalflow (vizpix on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Lilium 'Stargazer' & Red Lily (Lilium Philadelphicum)

Pink Stargazer Lily | Red Lily
Credit: Ruth Temple on flickr | SamreenMKhan on flickr / Both Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Western Red Lily | Wood Lily (Lilium Philadelphicum)

Western Red Lily | Wood Lily
Credit: Bruce Guenter on flickr | Kate Ter Haar on flickr / Both Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Calla Lilies and Daffodils Are Poisonous to Dogs and Cats

Calla lilyJeffry (dreamsailors on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericThe calla lily (shown at right and comes in many colours) does NOT result in acute kidney failure when ingested. It is considered mild to moderately toxic to both cats and dogs.

The signs and symptoms of calla lily ingestion include: pawing at the face (secondary to oral pain), drooling, foaming at the mouth, and vomiting.

You may notice moderate to severe swelling of the lips, tongue, mouth, throat, and nose. It may become difficult for a cat or dog to breathe or even swallow. Call your vet, animal hospital or Animal Poison Control Center at 800-213-6680. 

Wild daffodilJohan Hansson (plastanka on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericDaffodils are considered mild to moderately toxic to cats and dogs too. The Pet Poison Helpline states: If you suspect your cat or dog has ingested daffodils (particularly the bulbs), contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline for treatment recommendations.

Signs and symptoms of daffodil toxicity include: drooling, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rapid heart rate, abdominal pain, abnormal breathing patterns, and cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).

By now, you might be wondering what flowers are safe to give and receive for Easter and Mother's Day.

TeleFlora does a fabulous job of listing alternative choices. I was impressed that they even consulted Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, DVM, PhD, DABVT, DABT, Vice President and Medical Director of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. 

Low Head RoomRussell Bernice on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Their short list of "pet friendly" flowers and plants include:

  • African daisy (Arctotis stoechadifolia)
  • African violet (Saintpaulia spp.)
  • Alyssum 
  • Bachelors buttons (Centaureaa cyanus)
  • Begonia 
  • Celosia
  • Common Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus)
  • Easter Daisy (Townsendia sevicea)
  • Orchids (Barbrodia, Sophronitis, etc.)
  • Peruvian lily, Brazilian lily
  • Roses

I think roses are perfect for any occasion and they are safe for pets too. But my cat Kady says, "Any empty Easter baskets would probably be most welcome by cats and their humans."

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