Photo courtesy Jake the Fire Safety Dog

We provide our pets food, attention, medical care, and love. In exchange, they offer companionship, protection, enjoyment, and their own love for us.  For all they have to offer, they must rely on us for protection from harm.

Did you know pet poisoning cases dramatically increase around Valentine’s Day? Some well-intentioned gifts actually can be toxic for pets.

The E.S.C.A.P.E. Fire Safety team and Jake the Fire Safety Dog offer some common causes of pet poisoning along with tips to keep your pet safe:

Roses: Although roses don’t often cause serious poisoning beyond gastrointestinal upset, there’s risk for trauma to the mouth and paws from the thorns.  Additionally, if a large enough portion of the rose head or stem is ingested, a bowel obstruction may result.

Lilies: A beautiful but deadly alternative to Valentine’s Day roses is a fresh bouquet of Lilies.  The toxin can be found in the petals, leaves, pollen, or even the water in the vase.  Lilies are extremely toxic to cats and cause acute kidney failure within one or two days of exposure.  If not treated, the exposure and ingestion will likely result in death.

Chocolate and cocoa: The classic Valentine’s Day treats can be toxic to pets.  Chocolate and cocoa contain theobromine, a chemical similar to caffeine that’s highly toxic to dogs and cats.  The darker or more concentrated the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains.  Therefore, the most dangerous chocolates are baker’s chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, and gourmet dark chocolates.  Ingestions of small amounts of chocolate may cause mild vomiting and diarrhea.  Larger amounts can cause severe agitation, abnormal heart rhythms, tremors, seizures, collapse or eventually death.

Xylitol: Xylitol is a commonly used and naturally occurring sugar substitute.  It can be used alone or in combination with aspartame or other sweeteners and is used in many sugar-free chewing gums, and baked goods.  Around Valentine’s Day, beware of its use in breath mints, colorful candy presents or sugar-free cake or muffin mixes.  Xylitol may cause a life-threatening drop in blood sugar as well as liver damage in dogs.  Within 10-15 minutes of ingestion, dogs may develop hypoglycemia, lose coordination and start vomiting.  Collapse and seizures may quickly follow.  In rare cases, these signs won’t appear until several hours after ingestion.

Other items to avoid feeding to your pet include:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Coffee (grounds, beans, chocolate covered espresso beans)
  • Moldy or spoiled foods
  • Onions or onion powder
  • Fatty foods
  • Salt
  • Yeast dough
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Raisins and grapes

If you suspect a poisoning situation involving your pet, contact your local veterinarian, a local emergency veterinary service or the ASPCA National Poison Center at (888) 426-4435 or the Regional Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222 for poisoning involving people.



The smell of a cake baking in the oven or a tasty soup simmering on the stovetop is difficult for both children and adults to resist.  However, each year over 486,000 individuals in the U.S. and Canada are seen in emergency departments, minor emergency clinics or physician’s offices for the treatment of a burn injury due to cooking, hot liquids, grease, food, tap water and steam.

Most scald burns occur in the home and are typically related to everyday activities such as cooking, eating and bathing.  They often occur to young children because of a lack of adult supervision and a failure to follow safe practices.

That’s why National Burn Awareness Week, observed the first full week in February, is designed to teach kids how to be responsible for their personal safety and to increase family awareness of potentially harmful situations in homes throughout the community where you live.

“Children under the age of five are 2.4 times as likely as the general population to suffer burn injuries that require emergency medical treatment.” according to Firefighter Michael McLeieer of the non-profit fire safety charity E.S.C.A.P.E. Inc.  “Young children cannot understand  the potential dangers of things that can burn them.  Today, 96.8% of those who suffer burn injuries will survive.  Unfortunately, many of those survivors will sustain serious scarring, life-long physical disabilities, and adjustment difficulties,” said McLeieer.

Facts about burn related injuries:

  • The primary causes of burn injuries include fire-flame, scalds, electrical and chemicals.


  • Hot water scalds are the leading cause of burns to young children.


  • Men are more likely to be burned than women (68% males and 32% females were seen at a burn unit).


  • Most of the injuries occur in the home (73%) followed by work (8%).


  • Tragically, children, the elderly, and the disabled are especially vulnerable to burn injuries, and almost one-third of all burn injuries occur in children under the age of 15.


  • Young adults ages 20-29 have a probability of a burn injury that is roughly 1.5 times the risk of the general population.

Prevent burns and scalds in the kitchen:

  • Place objects so that they cannot be pulled down or knocked over.
  • Turn pot handles away from the stove’s edge.
  • Use dry oven mitts or potholders. Hot cookware can heat moisture in a potholder or hot pad, resulting in a scald burn.
  • Remove food that has been cooked in the microwave carefully.  Open containers slowly and away from the face.
  • Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.
  • Have a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet around the stove.
  • Never hold a child while you are cooking, drinking a hot liquid, or carrying hot foods or liquids.

General first aid for burns and scalds:

  • Treat a burn right away by putting it under cool, running water.  Cool the burn  for fifteen to twenty minutes.
  • Cover a burn with a clean, dry cloth.  Do not apply creams, ointments, sprays or other home remedies.
  • Remove all clothing, diapers, jewelry and metal from the burned area.  These can hide underlying burns and retain heat, which can increase skin damage.
  • Seek immediate emergency medical care for more serious burns to prevent infection, other complications and death.

National Burn Awareness Week is the perfect time to share this information, develop a fire escape plan, check your smoke alarms, and make your kitchen and entire home safe for those you care for Where You Live!

* Information provided by the American Burn Association, United States Fire Administration and National Fire Protection Association.



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National Burn Awareness Week is February 5 – 11, 2017.  Please listen to some important burn prevention tips shared on WKZO AM 590 radio Monday morning February 6th at 9:10 a.m. by our founder Firefighter Michael McLeieer.