Tips for a Pet-Friendly Valentine’s Day!

By Dr. Nelson Bricker, Veterinarian

Holidays can bring people together, but we see time and again pets that don’t understand our special days getting into trouble. No one wants a fun day to turn into a trip to the ER. With that in mind, we put together a list of things to watch out for and not share with your pet, even if they are your valentine. Here are the top five dangers we see during this holiday.

  1. Chocolate and candy. While these are the most well-known toxins in dogs and cats, it is hard to avoid them at this time of year. Things to keep in mind are that the darker the chocolate (higher the cocoa %), the more likely what was eaten will be toxic. Signs your pet may have eaten chocolate may be mild such as some soft stool or vomiting, but these signs can progress to hyperexcitability, uncontrolled tremors, seizures, rapid heart rate, and serious cases can be fatal. Having a vet evaluate the amount of chocolate eaten and having pets seen early will always give the best possible outcome. Other ingredients that can have serious consequences include grapes and raisins, which can cause kidney failure in dogs. Sugar-free sweets that use Xylitol can drop a pet’s blood sugar and affect the liver, so this is an ingredient to check for.
  2. Flowers and plants. Another classic gift that should be chosen carefully is the type of flower or plant. Different flowers can have their own risks. The most dangerous plant would be the true lilies. While these only affect cats, even the tiniest amount can send them into kidney failure. Most other plants do not have such serious consequences, but can cause a variety of signs from vomiting, to liver disease, to irregular heart beats. If you think a pet has been exposed to a plant, it is often best to call an animal poison control center such as ASPCA or Pet Poison Helpline. They have the most accurate information on exposure to anything toxic and can direct you and your veterinarian on if or what treatment may be needed.
  3. Ribbons. Perhaps one of the most overlooked dangers is something many owners may even use to play with their pets. Ribbons can be lots of fun but pets left alone with them seem to occasionally eat them. Some of those ribbons will get caught and do serious injury to the intestines. Identifying these pets who ingested ribbons early and watching them carefully is important to prevent problems and know if surgery will be needed or not. Being careful with your ribbons and only playing under supervision can go a long way.
  4. Fires and candles. A romantic candlelit dinner or fireplace is often the perfect touch to a Valentine’s Day.  Unfortunately, every year there is a story of some pet that burns a house down. Even if it is not as bad as that, burnt whiskers, paws, nose and worse can happen to curious or playful pets. Burns can be very painful and take a long time to heal. They require careful management and monitoring. On top of that, smoke inhalation can really damage lungs and expose pets to toxins.
  5. Cold weather. It may be easy to forget that Valentine’s Day is often one of the coldest times of the year. From frostbite to hypothermia and increased strain on hearts, the cold weather can pose a risk to many pets. It is important to remember to keep animals protected and warm. Remember that they deserve love just as much on Valentine’s Day.

If you think your pet has ingested something dangerous, contact the resources below or your veterinarian immediately.

ASPCA Poison Control: (888) 426-4435

Pet Poison Helpline: (800) 213-6680

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