Easter is one of those seasonal holidays that has a lot of foods, both traditional and very modern, that are associated with the festivities. Even if you don't celebrate the religious aspects of the holiday, most people enjoy welcoming the spring and all the associated flowers, greenery and warm weather, and typically cap this off with a terrific meal. There are also all the treats and candies that are associated with Easter, particularly those delectable Easter chocolates and eggs.
Unfortunately for your dog there is really nothing healthy or "good for them" that you are probably going to feature at your Easter dinner. It is not like Christmas where you can slice off some nice roasted turkey, as the main featured meat at Easter is ham, which is horrible for dogs in several ways. One of the biggest problems with ham is the brine in which it is cured. As you know ham is a very salty meat, which is solely because of the type of salted brine it is preserved in. While this tangy, salty taste may be delicious for a person it is definitely not going to do your dog any good. Dogs with any kind of digestive disorder are going to be very sensitive to changes in the diet, which of course includes adding salty and cured meats to their meal. Some dogs that are prone to bloat may actually drink more water during meals of high salt foods, dramatically increasing the risk of this very serious condition. Bloat occurs when the stomach fills up then twists on itself, resulting in a partial to full obstruction at the area where the intestine and the stomach connect. The resulting build up of pressure can lead to anxiety, pressure on the heart and lungs and even death if not treated immediately.
Another major problem with ham is that it is a fatty meat. While it may be tempting to give good old Fido a treat of all that caramelized fat surrounding the ham, it can be a very serious mistake. High fatty meals and meats can trigger problems with the pancreas and may even bring on attacks of pancreatitis. This condition is caused when the pancreas over-produces digestive enzymes which actually begin to digest the pancreas and gastrointestinal system. Pancreatitis can be a chronic condition or it can occur with only one high fat meal in a dog that is already prone to the condition. Like bloat it can be very serious and life threatening if not treated immediately. Dogs that have one attack of pancreatitis will need to be closely monitored throughout their life and kept on a very strict, low fat diet.
Ham bones are not even good for your dog, despite their large size and the obvious joint found in a shoulder or leg cut. The bone has been brined, which means that it has become weakened in the curing process, plus it has been cooked. Any type of cooking is going to cause a bone to splinter when pressure is applied, resulting in bone fragments that can injure your pet's mouth, throat and gastrointestinal system. Of course ham bones are also high in salt content, making all parts of this delicious type of meat a real health problem for dogs.
The rest of Easter dinner typically isn't any better for your dog. If you have scalloped potatoes, they are often cooked with cheese and milk, both components of human diets that can really do a number on a dog's digestive system. Many dogs will have significant problems with excessive gas and diarrhea with even a small addition of milk or milk products to food, although yogurt and some cottage cheese can be well tolerated in small quantities.
Finally most dog owners are well aware of the dangers of feeding your dog chocolate of any kind. The biggest issue with chocolate is that it is impossible to determine how much or how little may cause a serious and potentially life threatening condition in your dog. Chocolate is one of those addictive type foods, especially for dogs. Once they even associate the smell of chocolate with the taste, they are very likely to do almost anything to get to that candy dish on the table. This behavior is largely due to the stimulant effect that chocolate has, related to a compound known as theobromine. All chocolate, except white, has some potentially amount of theobromine, even in small amounts of less than one ounce. Cooking chocolate and dark chocolate can have as much as 450 mg of theobromine per ounce of chocolate, which is enough to pose a life threatening level of the compound to a toy, small or even medium sized dog. A large dog that already had a heart, respiratory or neurological issue may be seriously affected by even small quantities of milk or dark chocolate.
Signs of theobromine or chocolate poisoning in dogs include rapid breathing, hyperactive behavior, anxiety, vomiting, diarrhea and muscle twitching and tremors. As the toxicity increases the dog will begin to pant excessively and often drool, become highly restless and even aggressive and then seizures, coma and death will follow relatively shortly if the dog has ingested a life-threatening dose.
Treatment will include flushing out the stomach contents, getting an IV established and managing the dog's rapid heart rate and breathing. Hypothermia can also be a problem in dogs that have reached a high toxicity level so your vet needs to be consulted immediately. Unfortunately for many pets they have also eaten the wrappers, which tend to be foil or plastic, which can further result in digestive problems such as bowel obstructions and blockages and even the necessity of stomach surgery.
If you do want to prepare an Easter treat for your dog consider going to the butcher and purchasing a nice big fresh and meaty knuckle or joint bone for their gnawing pleasure. This is always best enjoyed outdoors on the new grass, just don't forget to watch the bone for any signs of splintering or shattering and remove it when necessary.
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