Table of Contents:
Whether your Valentine is a person or a pet, February 14th can be one the sweetest days of the year. The pet poisoning response team at the ASPCA can attest, however, that it can also be one of the most stressful. Each Valentine’s Day, they field a surge of emergency calls from pet parents whose festivities have taken a turn for the worse. If you’ll be celebrating with a pet this year, watch out for these Valentine’s Day health hazards.
Nearly everyone has heard that pets and chocolate don’t mix. Whether it’s milk, dark, white, or semi-sweet, even a small amount of chocolate is potentially deadly to dogs and cats alike. In addition to excess fat and sugar, chocolate contains a substance called theobromine and trace amounts of caffeine. These nervous system stimulants quickly lead to symptoms like vomiting, difficulty breathing, and seizures. In general, the darker the chocolate, the higher the theobromine content and poisoning risk.
Chocolates aren’t the only treats to keep pets away from. Whether it’s made with real sugar or an artificial alternative, candy is anything but sweet for cats and dogs. The genuine article can lead to digestive concerns, and alternative sweeteners like xylitol are poisonous. Watch out for wrappers too. These can easily present choking hazards, particularly for small and mid-sized pets.
If you’re sending or displaying a floral arrangement this Valentine’s, make sure to familiarize yourself with the long list of flowers that are toxic to dogs and cats. Cat owners and their admirers should take particular care not to include lilies in Valentine’s Day bouquets. These flowers are highly toxic to cats and ingestion can lead to death in less than 24 hours. Daffodils, tulips, carnations, and other bouquet staples are similarly dangerous. Even non-toxic plants can present problems. Roses won’t poison your four-legged friend, but thorns could cause injuries and lead to esophageal or intestinal obstructions.
Just a small sip of an alcoholic drink can leave pets vomiting and struggling with labored breathing. Larger quantities can send them into a coma and cause respiratory failure. Watch out for spills, unattended glasses, and uncorked bottles around your pets.
Cooking up a special meal for this special occasion? Keep an eye on your pets in the kitchen and dining room. A number of pantry staples are toxic to pets and the extra fats and seasonings used to prepare dishes can lead to digestive problems and weight gain. Garlic and onion are especially dangerous. In any form, these members of the allium family are poisonous to both cats and dogs. If pets are eager for a taste of a home-cooked meal, stick with raw, unseasoned vegetables and cooked, unseasoned meats — and only as an occasional treat. Learn more about staying safe in the kitchen with this guide to pets and table food.
Candles can add the perfect ambience to a Valentine’s Day dinner or spell disaster for curious, unattended pets. Take care not to leave cats or dogs alone with an open flame and — just in case — always ensure your house is equipped with both smoke detectors and a fire extinguisher.
If you’ve got a present for that special someone, make sure to keep pets away from wrapping paper, tape, ribbons, and other potential choking hazards. Your cat or dog may not be able to resist chewing on these shiny materials. As a result, it’s probably safest to save wrapping for a time when pets are otherwise occupied.
Pet Poisoning Emergencies
Time is of the essence during pet health emergencies. If you suspect poisoning or another emergency, monitor your pet closely for warning signs like vomiting, tremors, or strange behavior and be ready to call your emergency veterinarian, the Pet Poison Helpline, or the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center.