How to celebrate Easter safely with your dog

Collage of a dog with flowers in her eyes.

Ah, Easter: a lovely holiday for us, but a chocolate-riddled temptation for our pooches. Because accidental poison ingestion is a common claim on pet insurance, here are some tips on avoiding disaster and celebrating the Easter weekend safely with your dog.

Watch what they eat

Collage of a chihuahua with donuts in its eyes.

While the littlies hunt Easter eggs in the garden, keep the family dog inside or by your side, so they’re not tempted to ‘help out’. Not only is chocolate incredibly toxic for dogs, but foil can become lodged in their oesophagus or hurt their tummies. It’s all-around not a good package. 

Have a friend, partner, or family member keep an eye on the excitable mutt while someone else supervises the Easter egg hunt. 

Keep an eye on your other Easter decorations as well, and avoid keeping small Easter toys at dog level. This can include sticky geckos, confetti, streamers, balloons, stuffed animals, and fake plastic eggs.

Let the kids know the rules

Collage of a parent reading to their kid while the dog looks on, easter eggs in an easter basket beside them.

Little kids might not be old enough to quite understand what’s good and bad for dogs. So if your child is tempted to feed the family pooch, keep an eye on them and let them know which foods are off-limits. Be gentle but firm: don’t turn it into a game. 

If your kid still wants to include the dog in the family fun, direct them to safe ways they can do so, like dog-friendly easter treats or toys. 

Speaking of which…

Distract with dog-friendly Easter treats

Collage of a cool dog with red flips and watermelon reflected in her sunnies.

As A Dog’s World with Tony Armstrong taught us last year, dogs do much better with positive reinforcement than negative reinforcement. Instead of just growling at them when they sniff out an Easter egg, reward them with a bone when they leave it alone. 

In fact, there are a ton of dog-friendly Easter treats you can whip up with five minutes and some initiative. Some good foods for dogs include: 

  • Blueberries
  • Carrots
  • Cooked, boneless meats like beef, pork, and chicken
  • Seedless watermelon
  • Pumpkin
  • Boiled and de-shelled eggs
  • Cooked rice
  • Parsley
  • Xylitol-free peanut butter

From here, you can come up with your own recipe for fun! A slice of watermelon, a boiled egg, or even a carrot for the easter bunny can go a long way to making the day a happy one for your dog. 

Even carob (a chocolatey mixture of nonfat milk solids, soy, and vegetable oil) can make a dog-friendly alternative to chocolate when used in moderation as a treat-topper. 

You can even mix some cooked rice, finely chopped chicken, parsley, rice flour, and an egg to bake beautiful Easter muffins for your puppy. Here’s the recipe (courtesy of PetStock):

Easter muffin recipe on green background with a cartoon dog, muffins, and easter eggs

Remember, Easter toys are valid too! Not every dog is food-motivated. Some will absolutely go bananas (which are good for dogs, by the way) for a ball, a rope toy, or a good squeaky toy. 

PRO TIP: Dogs are red-green colour blind. The best colour toy to get them is a blue one, as this will show up nice and vividly in your ‘yellow’ grass.

Learn the signs of chocolate poisoning or toxicity in your dog

A sheepdog with a stethoscope in its mouth, yellow background.

Accidents can happen, so it’s important not to panic. If your dog ingests chocolate or starts displaying symptoms of chocolate poisoning, call your vet or the animal poison control line.

Chocolate is a stimulant, which means your dog’s heart will beat faster. Their blood pressure surges, which can eventually cause seizures and in extreme scenarios death.

How sick your dog becomes will depend on its size, breed, age, and how much chocolate it ate (and what kind). Dark chocolate is worse for dogs than light or milk chocolate.  

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning or toxicity can take six to twelve hours to show up, and include: 

  • Tiredness
  • Anxiety or restlessness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Twisting
  • Seizures or seizing
  • Hyperactivity (zoomies)
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Tremors
  • Panting
  • Breathlessness

BONUS! Keep an eye out for a grass allergy

Collage of a dog balancing a ball on its nose.

If you’re taking your dog to the park or letting them roll around in the grass, make sure to keep an eye out for symptoms of a grass allergy. This can include a red rash, itching, sneezing, head shaking or flapping, swelling, runny eyes, patchy hair loss, and lethargy. 

Over-the-counter antihistamines like Diphenhydramine (which can be a sedative), Loratadine, or Cetirizine are usually safe to give your dog in small doses. If they don’t like pills, you can try coating them in something delicious like margarine (dairy can be bad for dogs) or xylitol-free peanut butter. 

Good luck, and happy Easter!

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