Valentine’s Day is an event where so much effort is seemingly spent giving presents to or spending time with our chosen romantic partner. From a veterinary clinical practice perspective, Valentine’s Day is one of the worst “Hallmark holidays” for our pets. Here's why and how you can make my Valentine's Day better!
Gestures of our emotions in the form of material gifts have serious potential to induce sickness for our pets. Additionally, humans’ poor planning (i.e. permitting a pet’s access to a toxin) also it contributes to the likelihood a pet will become sick or injured.
Here’s my breakdown of some traditional Valentine’s Day elements the health implications they have for our pets.
Plants and Flowers
Lillies and roses are some of the plants and flowers most commonly gifted on Valentine’s Day.
True lillies (those of the Lillium spp. and Hemerrocallis spp. families, including Asiatic, Stargazer, and Tiger lillies) have a potent, water-soluble toxin in their leaves, petals, and pollen. The toxin can even be found in the vase water used to hydrate the plant!
Acute (sudden onset) kidney failure can be caused when a cat consumes even small amounts of the plant material or the vase water. Grains of pollen could accumulate on a pet’s coat and be ingested by another household pet during grooming sessions (i.e. cats grooming each other).
Dogs are less susceptible to the toxic effects of Lillies, but will likely suffer from vomiting if enough fibrous plant material is ingested.
Although roses are not directly toxic to our companion canines and felines, rose thorns can cause oral, skin, or other trauma when ingested or touched. Consumption of any part of the rose could also lead to digestive tract upset (vomit, diarrhea, decreased appetite, etc.).
Fertilizer packets providing nitrogenous and other nutrients to plants and flowers should also be kept well out of a pet’s reach. Water in which fertilizer has been dissolved also holds potential to induce illness.
The safest move is to not bring a toxic or dangerous plant into one’s home. Any pet could counter surf or break down a barrier to satisfy their curiosity about the novel greenery present in your shared environment. Should a special someone present you with a bouquet, make sure to identify any toxic plants by referencing the ASPCA’s Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants website.
Chocolate and Candy
Chocolate, fat, sugar, and other ingredients commonly found in Valentine’s Day candy can seriously harm your pet.
Chocolate contains stimulating methylzanthines (including caffeine and theobromine), which are slowly metabolized in the liver of both cats and dogs. Therefore, the threshold quantity capable of causing sickness is much lower than that of humans. Depending on the type and amount of chocolate consumed, hyperactivity, vomiting, diarrhea, or even seizures can be seen.
Baking and dark chocolate have the highest methylzanthine concentrations and are the most dangerous to pets (i.e. smaller amounts need to be consumed to have toxic effect). Semisweet and milk chocolate and cocoa flavored products contain lesser amounts, yet are still dangerous. White chocolate has no stimulants, but it is rich in fat, sugar that can lead to digestive tract upset.
If your pooch gets into your Valentine’s Day chocolate stash, then reference this VSPN’s chocolate toxicity table and immediately seek help from your veterinarian or veterinary emergency hospital.
Some chocolates even contain other ingredients having toxic properties, including coffee or espresso beans, macadamia nuts, or even raisins. Additionally, some candies contain Xylitol, a low-calorie, alcohol-based sweetener. Sugar-free products (gum, mints, etc.) are the main culprits.
Xylitol mimics sugar’s effect on the body by promoting the release of insulin from the pancreas, which then reduces blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Only a small amount of Xylitol (0.05 grams per pound of body weight) can cause significant toxicity in dogs. A 10 pound pooch only needs to consume one piece of Xylitol- based chewing gum to suffer the toxic effects.
Keep all candy in airtight, sealable, plastic containers inside a cabinet well-removed from a pet’s access.
Educate your significant other and children of the health hazards pets suffer from ingested in Valentine Day plants, flowers, or candy. Nobody wants to think of their beloved pet being sick, so your message of prevention should send a clear message to kids of all ages.
Have a festive, safe, and illness-free Valentine’s Day with your favorite two or four-legged companion.
Thank you for reading this article. Your questions and comments are completely welcome (I’ll respond).
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Copyright of this article (2013) is owned by Dr Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr Patrick Mahaney. Requests for republishing must be approved by Dr Patrick Mahaney and received in written format.