Feb. 14 is Valentine’s Day and although the holiday celebrates love, it is also associated with exchanging cards, flowers and chocolates and candy. Unfortunately for those of us in the pet health field, Valentine’s Day can also be a time of increased pet medical problems and increased visit to vet emergency hospitals.
Objects of love and affection can become objects of real danger to our beloved dogs and cats. Below are some items that could become hazardous to your pet.
FLOWERS & BOUQUETS
Many floral arrangements may contain flowers that can be dangerous and even deadly, especially when the recipient has a cat in their home. Lilies, one of the most common flowers sent during this time and during spring, are extremely toxic to cats. All parts of the flower, from the petals, stamen and pollen can cause significant kidney damage to cats and may even cause death. If you own a cat, inspect every bouquet, and discard any lilies from the arrangement. Remove it from your house completely so your cat cannot access it even in the garbage. Additionally, be aware that plants with thorny stems like roses can be bitten, stepped on or swallowed by some pets. These punctures can cause pain and get infected. If possible, consider removing thorns when you have inquisitive and destructive pets. Other plants that be toxic to pets include Oleander, Peace Lily, Sago Palm, ZZ Plants, Snake Plants, Areca Plants, and Weeping Figs.
CHOCOLATES & OTHER CANDIES
Most people have heard that chocolate is toxic to dogs but don’t realize how often dogs end up in the hospital after consuming chocolate. Boxed chocolate, chocolate truffles, chocolate cookies and chocolate chips are commonly left in places where dogs can easily get to them. The concern of chocolate in dogs is that it contains an ingredient called methylxanthine which is a stimulant like caffeine and can potentially cause dangerous increases in heart rate and heart arrhythmias, severe hyperactivity and even seizures and on occasion, death.
Although the rule of thumb is that the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is, especially in smaller dogs, the secondary effects of chocolate ingestion (lighter chocolate) is that it has a high butterfat content and can lead to significant gastroenteritis (vomiting and /or diarrhea) as well as a dangerous condition called pancreatitis. This is especially concerning in dogs already having sensitive stomachs.
Most candy and a lot of sugarless gum as well as baked goods contain an artificial sweetener called xylitol which is toxic to pets. Xylitol can cause a drop in blood sugar which can lead to wobbliness and even seizures. Long term and more serious concerns of liver damage can occur as well.
Though most pets aren’t lured by alcoholic drinks, some will drink it when offered or when spilled. Since most dogs are considerably smaller than people, a little bit can cause some harm. Signs of alcohol toxicity is vomiting, tremors, slow breathing, lethargy and in some cases even coma. If large amounts are ingested, always contact a veterinarian or emergency service right away.
Candles make for a romantic evening, but puppies and kittens can burn their noses or even worse, paw and cause a dangerous fire by knocking them when left unattended. Always put out any candle or fire when you leave a room. If you still want the ambiance of candles, consider a flameless option.
WRAPPING RIBBON, BOWS AND STRINGS
Cats (and some dogs) love chewing on linear objects like ribbon and strings which can be dangerous when ingested causing obstructions in the intestines often requiring surgical removal. In some, the strings or ribbons get wrapped under the tongue. If you’re trying to be extra cautious with a pet in your home this Valentine’s Day, greeting cards are usually non-toxic.