Keeping Pets Safe on Valentine's Day

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, many of us have only one thing on our minds - chocolate! And while we may love its effect on that special someone, chocolate can be deadly if eaten by cats or dogs.

Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine. Consuming large quantities can lead to theobromine toxicity, symptoms of which include vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, high blood pressure and rapid heart rate. Severe cases can easily progress to seizures, respiratory failure, and cardiac arrest. Because of their small size relative to that of humans, dogs and cats cannot tolerate amounts considered safe for human consumption.

The highest concentrations of theobromine are found in baking chocolate. Just one 2oz. square of baking chocolate contains a fatal dose for a 20-pound dog. Dark chocolate is nearly as dangerous. While milk and white chocolates contain lower concentrations of theobromine, the high levels of fat in these sugary treats can cause severe gastric upset, or a more dangerous condition known as pancreatitis.

Since most cases of theobromine toxicity are the result of pets helping themselves to generous portions, keep those heart-shaped boxes well out of your pet’s reach. Our furry friends are oblivious to these dangers, and they find chocolate-y goodness as irresistible as we do!

Nuts can also be a problem for pets, so stash these as well. Macadamias and walnuts contain a substance that has yet to be identified by researchers, yet has been linked to severe neurological signs in dogs. Nuts can also contain aflotoxin mold, which can quickly accumulate to dangerous levels in small animals. The size and shape of nuts can make them difficult to digest, so keep them safely out of reach.

If your sweetie doesn’t care for sweets and you’re bringing home flowers instead, remember that popular cut flowers like carnations can cause gastric upset for our pets. Lilies are toxic to cats, so be sure to inspect all bouquets for any flowers such as Easter lilies, tiger lilies, stargazer lilies, or any flower in the lilium family. If you live with a cat, dispose of these flowers safely, as even airborne pollen or water in which lilies are displayed, can be deadly if ingested by our feline friends.

Always use caution with lighted candles, as roughly 100 house fires per year are started by pets. Candles are the leading cause of such catastrophes. And if aromatherapy is on the agenda, be advised that these products can be a problem for pets as well. Cats in particular are at risk of falling ill as they lack an essential liver enzyme that allows them to safely metabolize such oils.

Oils which are a known danger to cats include Ylang ylang, pennyroyal, eucalyptus, cinnamon, and tea tree oils, but this list is not exclusive and much research has yet to be done. Cat parents should use extreme caution if they choose to use these products, and perhaps most importantly, never apply them to their pets.

If you suspect your pet has ingested or inhaled a toxin, call your veterinarian immediately. That said, a little due diligence can help ensure Fluffy does not cause the holiday romance to fizzle.

Dr. Kupkee is the lead practitioner at Sabal Chase Animal Clinic.

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