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.