Keeping Pets Safe on Valentine's Day

Resi would like to go home with Pita
Resi would like to go home with Pita

SOUTH FLORIDA – Many of us have only one thing on our minds on Valentine's Day - 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 2-ounce 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 avoid giving 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 and amaryllis can cause severe illness in both cats and dogs, so keep flowers in a safe place.

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