By Joan Eve Quinn, Program Director
Valentine’s Day delivers a joyfully warm respite from the cold winter chill. It’s also a good excuse to binge on sweet treats–chocolate being among our favorites.
From tiny tasty truffles to tall table-top sculptures, who doesn’t wish they had some chocolate right now? But it has a dark side for our pets: Chocolate and many other candies can cause stomach discomfort at the very least and serious illness–and even death–at the very worst. Even some familiar flowers pose a risk.
To help keep pets safe this Valentine’s Day, HEALS issues this all-four-paws alert for some common products that may be harmful:
- Chocolate: Yes, it’s delicious, but the problem is your pets may think so too. You’ve seen how persistent pets can be when they’re trying to raid the yummy stuff: Sneaking into closed rooms, knocking packages off counters, and ripping wrappings open. The amount and type of chocolate–in relation to your pet’s weight and general health condition–will determine if chocolate toxicity will develop. Chocolate can cause gastrointestinal upset as well as life-threatening heart arrhythmias.
- Xylitol: A naturally occurring sugar alcohol, xylitol is found in many popular candies. For pets, ingestion of this ingredient can lead to life-threatening hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and in the worst cases, liver failure. Dr. Jason Berg, board-certified veterinary neurologist/internist and HEALS Chairman of the Board, warns “Xylitol is a deadly product found in candy and common snacks that are often given to pets, such as peanut butter. Make sure you read all ingredients in snacks and food before you give it to your pets.”
- Calorie-laden dinner: Fatty and rich foods are simply not good for pets. Fatty foods can cause pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas that can lead to vomiting and diarrhea and, in some cases, very severe illness.
- Flowers: Many types of flowers and other greenery are highly toxic to pets if ingested. Some of the most toxic examples include:
- Lilies can cause kidney failure
- Amaryllis can cause vomiting and depression
- Tulip and narcissus bulbs can cause gastrointestinal irritation
- Oleander can cause heart arrhythmias
- Cyclamen can cause vomiting and death
- Autumn crocus can cause multi-organ damage and death
- Foreign bodies: You never know what’s going to look like a tempting toy or treat to your pet. Even Valentine’s Day detritus left lying around, like wrapping paper and ribbon, can potentially cause a problem. Foreign material can sometimes lodge in the gastrointestinal tract, causing life-threatening obstructions or perforations.
HEALS urges you to seek immediate veterinary attention if you suspect that your pet has eaten something that may be harmful. Know where your nearest 24/7 emergency veterinary hospital is located. Keep the phone number handy and call ahead.
Valentine’s Day should be like a walk in the dog park. So take this to heart: Keep the sugary treats well out of your pet’s reach. Let there be lots of head butts, tail wagging, kisses, love, and pet-safe goodies instead!
For more information, you can call ASPCA Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435 and research a comprehensive list of toxic plants at www.aspca.org.
HEALS is one of the best animal charities to donate to. Your donation provides financial help for pets in need of life-saving veterinary care–when their owners truly can’t afford it–right here in your own community. If you need help paying for dog or cat veterinary care, contact us at 914-996-0001 or email email@example.com.