Valentine’s Day is a holiday that celebrates love with exchanging cards, sending flowers, and giving and receiving chocolates and candy. Unfortunately for those of us in the veterinary health field, Valentine’s Day can also be a time of increased pet medical problems and increased visits to vet emergency hospitals.
These seemingly simple gifts to show love and affection can become objects of real danger to our dogs and cats. Here are some hazards to keep away from pets and avoid expensive trips to the emergency clinic.
Flowers and 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 can be toxic to pets include Oleander, Peace Lily, Sago Palm, ZZ Plants, Snake Plants, Areca Plants and Weeping Figs.
Chocolates and 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. Chocolate is consumed by dogs in various forms: Boxed chocolate, chocolate truffles, chocolate cookies, brownies and chocolate chips can all be commonly left in places where dogs can get to them. The concern of chocolate in dogs is that it contains an ingredient called methylxanthine (a stimulant like caffeine) that can potentially cause dangerous increases in heart rate and heart arrhythmias, severe hyperactivity, high body temperatures, body tremor, 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 (especially 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 that have sensitive stomachs.
Most candy and baked goods (as well as sugarless gum) 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.
Cocktails. Though most pets aren’t lured by alcoholic drinks, some will drink it when in reach or spilled. Since most dogs are considerably smaller than people, a little bit can cause some harm. Signs of alcohol toxicity are vomiting, tremors, slow breathing, lethargy, and in some cases, coma. If large amounts are ingested, always contact a veterinarian or emergency service right away.
Candles. Candles make for a romantic evening, but puppies and kittens can burn their noses or even worse, paws or cause a dangerous fire by knocking them when left unattended. Never leave a lit candle unattended in a room, especially one with a pet. Always put out any candle when you leave a room.
Wrapping ribbons, bows, and string. Cats (and some dogs) love chewing on objects like ribbon and strings which can be dangerous when ingested and cause obstructions in the intestines often requiring surgical removal. In some cases, 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 the way to go!
Have a Happy (and safe) Valentine’s Day! For more tips on responsible dog ownership, visit www.akc.org.
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