Short and not-so-sweet tips to keep your pets safe this Easter

THREAT: With so much chocolate about, the risk to pets at Easter is high. Picture: Shutterstock
THREAT: With so much chocolate about, the risk to pets at Easter is high. Picture: Shutterstock

For many Australians, Easter is a time to relax or celebrate with family and friends.

But if your family includes a pet, there are a few things to watch out for, to make sure that they're looked after and that they don't get into trouble.

Here are some tips to make sure your pets have a safe and happy Easter.

Watch out for chocolate

More and more Australians are now aware that chocolate can be toxic to dogs, cats and other animals.

Even a small amount of chocolate can be highly toxic, and chocolate poisoning - while mostly occurring in dogs - can also occur in cats and other pets (such as guinea pigs and birds).

So, it's important to remember, if you're having a traditional Easter egg hunt for the kids, you should make sure your pet is either safely secured or that the eggs aren't hidden within their reach.

Make sure that all of the eggs have been discovered and removed (by humans) so there's no chance of your pet finding one down the track.

You can always give your dog their own Easter hunt.

Try hiding their food, or a few special treats (in moderation) around the house and see how long it takes pooch to sniff them out.

Festive food

Remember there are other foods that can be bad for pets - for example, grapes, raisins, onion and avocado are toxic to dogs, so watch out if they are part of your festive feast (including avoiding pets getting a hold of hot cross buns that usually contain sultanas, raisins or chocolate).

If you do want to give your dog a special food treat, consider giving vegetable snacks, like a piece of carrot or cucumber (cut in a way to avoid the risk of choking).

You can also offer a small amount of fruit, such as banana or apple without the seeds. Just be mindful of not overfeeding fruit, as it does have a high sugar content.

A forage feeder for birds or small pets, or some cooked fish (with no bones) for cats are also good treat ideas.

Think twice about costumes

If you are thinking of putting your pet in a festive costume, we encourage you to think twice - costumes can make pets uncomfortable or can cause injury.

As a general rule, you shouldn't dress your pet in a costume if it makes them uncomfortable or restricts their movement in any way.

If you are dressing your pet up, make sure that they are only wearing their costume for a short period and that you supervise them closely the whole time.

Never, ever leave a pet in a costume unattended.

If you are going to choose a costume, you should avoid any that cover your pet's nose or mouth (restricting breathing, eating or drinking) or their eyes (obscuring vision) - or anything that stops them communicating with you or other animals (for example, interfering with movement and visualisation of their ears, eyes and tail).

Costumes that are too tight or heavy can cause overheating, and if too loose can cause accidents, tangling or tripping.

Also watch out for costumes with dangling, sparkling or other attachments that pets can pull off and swallow, as well as sharp items like safety pins that can cause accidental injury.

Keep an eye on your pets

Above all, it's important to make sure you pay extra attention to your pets over the Easter break.

In addition to the hazards described above, a change to routine can be stressful or unsettling.

If you're hosting family or friends, you should also keep an eye on your pets (for example, making sure cats don't run through an open door if you have visitors).

If you have a break from work, the holiday is a great chance to spend some quality time with your furry friends.

By following these tips, you'll be able to make sure that the Easter holiday is a safe and happy one for the whole family.

For more about keeping your pets safe at Easter, and any time of the year, visit the RSPCA Knowledgebase