Making Valentine’s Day Safe for your Pets

It’s that time of year again- Valentine’s Day!  And all of those yummy chocolates and candies, beautiful flowers and balloons tied with string could be dangerous to your furry best friend. Here’s how to keep them safe.

Chocolate

Chocolate ingestion is a common emergency with dogs.  Dogs can find chocolate products even if they are hidden thanks to their superior noses!  Once they find chocolate, they won’t to hesitate to eat it with gusto.

Why are chocolate products so toxic to dogs?  Chocolate and chocolate products (cake, brownies, frosting, cookies) contain compounds called methylxanthines- this includes caffeine and theobromine.  Toxic amounts of theobromine cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, irregular heart rhythms and seizures in pets.

The darker the chocolate, the higher the amount of theobromine so unsweetened baking chocolate contains much higher levels of theobromine than milk chocolate, causing toxicity with the consumption of much smaller amounts.

Keep all chocolate products out of reach from your pets, especially dogs.  Be aware that dogs can climb onto tables by hopping on chairs and can jump up to grab items off of the kitchen counter.

If you think your dog has ingested chocolate products, have them examined by a vet immediately.  The toxic effects can be avoided with timely medical attention.

Remember, previous chocolate eaters will not learn their lesson so make it a habit to keep chocolatey treats locked out of their reach all year round!

Raisins and Grapes

Believe it or not, raisins and grapes can be toxic to our pets, even in small amounts.  A single grape or raisin can cause serious kidney failure.   Types of grapes involved include both seedless and seeded, organic and non-organic, store bought and homegrown, and grape pressings from vineyards.

The reason some dogs develop renal failure following ingestion of grapes and raisins is not known.

Vomiting and diarrhea are often the first signs of grape or raisin toxicity and these signs can be seen within a few hours of ingestion. Serious kidney failure develops within 48 hours of ingestion.  You may see grape skin, grape stems or grape seeds in your dogs mouth, in vomit or when they defecate outside.

Keep grape and raisin products away from dogs.  Make sure children in the house know not to offer their pets foods that contain grapes or raisins such as raisin bagel or bread, cookies with raisins or fruit salad.  Contact your vet or local veterinary emergency center if you have any concerns.

Xylitol

This common sweetener is present in sugar free gum and other sugar free products such as candy and cookies.  A small amount of xylitol can cause seizuring and liver failure in pets, especially dogs.  It takes only a few pieces of gum eaten by a 45 pound dog can cause seizuring and other health problems.     Products containing xylitol are attractive to dogs especially fruity chewing gums, candy and cookies.  Dogs will also tear open packages of sweetener to lick up the powder inside.  Keep any products containing artificial sweeteners away from dogs, locked in a high cabinet.  Gum needs to be thrown away into a secure trash container.  Watch out for gum tossed onto street or sidewalks too- it’s all fair game!

Plants and Flowers

Valentine’s Day means flowers – bouquets, single stem roses and live plants.  Curious pets especially cats can get into trouble when checking out these botanicals.  Many household plants can be toxic to pets, including sago palms, tulips, oleander, hyacinths, poinsettias, azaleas, lilies, and amaryllis.

Especially toxic are the flowers in the lily family.  The pollen, leaves, petals and stems are all toxic to pets.  A few grains of pollen from a lily, licked by a cat from its fur can lead to fatal kidney failure.

Keep all flowers and plants away from pets.  Cats often jump on tables and counters to investigate new plants so put all plants in cat free zones.  Don’t allow flower pollen to get on your pet’s fur.  When the flowers are thrown out, put them in a secure trash bin.

Balloons and strings

Shiny balloons with strings are not only attractive to us, our pets like them too!  Cats and dogs will chew on strings and may swallow them.  Once swallowed, strings and ribbons can cause serious problems internally as the stomach and intestines try to digest and pass them.  Signs of a problem include vomiting, not eating and feeling lethargic.

If you suspect or see that your pet has swallowed a string, call your vet or your local veterinary emergency center right away!

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