It’s commonly known that Easter time is a religious celebration of the resurrection of Jesus but you may be wondering what the connection is between that and the fluffy rabbits, brightly painted eggs and chocolate which we associate Easter with?
The origin of the Easter bunny can be traced back to pre-Christian Germany where people worshipped several gods and goddesses. One such goddess that was celebrated during the Easter period was Ostara the goddess of fertility and her symbol was the rabbit because of the animal’s high reproduction rate. The eggs relate to the eggs which are fertilized for new life to begin. Ostara brought an end to winter and brighter days after the vernal equinox. She had a passion for new life and her presence was felt in the flowering of plants and the birth of human and animal babies.
Another explanation for the association of eggs with Easter is that eggs were formerly a forbidden food during the Lent season, so people would paint and decorate them to mark the end of the period of fasting. They would then eat these eggs on Easter as a celebration. It is still unclear as to how exactly chocolate got involved but it is speculated that when eggs were no longer forbidden, chocolate took its place due to so many people refraining from it for Lent.
While you’re tucking in to your favourite Easter egg this Sunday, you may feel like you are being watched by something with four legs and big brown eyes, your beloved dog. A couple of Easters back, my sister left her egg unattended for about 2 minutes. When she returned, all that was left was the empty foil and a guilty looking Cavalier called Harvey. At the time we all found it highly amusing until we started noticing that he was becoming ill. He was vomiting and had uncontrollable diarrhea. After a few days had passed he was still no better. At this point we were very concerned so we took him to the vet. We explained the symptoms and as it was shortly after Easter Sunday, immediately the vet knew that Harvey had eaten chocolate. Luckily he was fine in the end, but had he eaten much more he could easily have died.
There is a toxic component in chocolate called theobromine. This is a naturally occurring stimulant found in cocoa beans. While we can easily metabolize this, dogs process it at a much slower rate allowing it to build up toxic levels in their bodies. A large dog can consume more than a small dog before getting ill. Small amounts of chocolate can cause an upset stomach but large amounts can produce muscle tremors, seizures, irregular heartbeat, internal bleeding, heart attacks and even death.
Different types of chocolate have varying levels of theobromine. Cocoa, dark chocolate and cooking chocolate contain the highest levels, while milk and white chocolate have lower amounts. Chocolate is also toxic to cats, but there have been few reports of it poisoning them as they are more careful with what they eat. Dogs on the other hand, will eat just about anything. It is also worthwhile noting that Lilly flowers which are also associated with the Easter are poisonous to cats and dogs so if you have them in your home, it’s best to keep them somewhere that your pet can’t get their paws on them.
But it’s not all bad news! Just because your dog can’t consume an entire Easter egg doesn’t mean they can be involved in the festivities.
If you fancy treating your dog this weekend, you could bake them something to munch on while you’re having chocolate for breakfast (don’t deny it, we all do it!). I found a nice little recipe online for banana and honey cookies for dogs. Banana is a popular food with canines as they love the smell, texture and sweet taste.
Banana and Honey dog snacks –
Makes 30 – 40
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 – 20 minutes
10 oz. Wheat and gluten free flour
1 Egg, beaten, plus extra for brushing
1 Banana, mashed
2 Tablespoons Honey
2 drops of pure Vanilla Extract
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Cold Water
2 oz. Low-fat Cream Cheese
1 drop of Natural Yellow Food Colouring
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1. Mix all the cookie ingredients in a large mixing bowl until they come together to form a dough. Add a little more cold water, little by little, if the mixture is too dry. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until firm, then roll out to 1/4″ thick. Cut out shapes with an Easter bunny cookie cutter (or any other shaped cookie cutter, as these treats are simply too good to make only at Easter).
2. Transfer the cookies to a greased baking sheet, spaced 1/2 inch apart, and brush with beaten egg. Bake in a preheated oven, 325 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes until firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.
3. To decorate, beat together the cream cheese, colouring and olive oil and transfer to a piping bag fitted with a fine nozzle. Pipe designs on to the Easter bunny cookies and allow to harden. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
If you don’t have time to get these ingredients in, why not order some Bake Your Own muffins from our online boutique. The mixture is already prepared so you don’t need anything extra. Or better yet to save you going near the oven, you could try our Ready Make Dog cookies.
And rather than simply giving your dog the treats, why not make it a challenge for them!? If you’re planning an Easter hunt with friends or family then you could include your dog too. Keep your doggy in a room where they can’t see what you’re doing. Hide the treats in various places around the house or garden, then let them sniff the empty container and watch in amusement as they go on a mission to find some delicious snacks.
I’ll definitely be trying that over the weekend for my own dogs. I’m half tempted to put some bunny ears on them for a picture as well but I don’t know if they’ll hold still for long enough!
Will you be turning your pet into an Easter cat or dog over the next few days?
If you are, send us some pics on our Facebook page.