Valentine’s Day Concerns for Dogs and Cats

February is the month of love! There are chocolates, flowers, balloons, teddy bears, and many other gifts that surround us. Even though it is such a beautiful and happy month for most, it can quickly fill with worry and concern. Many of the products that were mentioned above can be harmful if ingested by our pets. Therefore, it is important to recognize the potential risks and prevent these exposures.

Chocolate comes in many different colors, shapes, wrappings, and fillings. Most importantly, it contains different concentrations of cocoa. Cocoa concentrations are the lowest in white chocolate, moderate in milk chocolate and higher in dark chocolate. But why is chocolate so scary for pets? Theobromine is one of the chemical components of chocolate, it is rapidly absorbed and widely distributed throughout the body (it can even cross the placenta). Its presence in dogs and cats can block the effects of a naturally occurring compound called adenosine. By blocking adenosine, dogs and cats will have increased heart rates, irregular heartbeats, hyperactivity, tremors, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, and increased thirst, among other signs. Preventing access to pets is important but being proactive when a dog or cat ingests chocolate is necessary. In the unfortunate event that your pet has ingested chocolate, first contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline. Acting quickly can prevent serious signs from developing.

Today, more and more sugar alternatives are being incorporated into foods. Sugar free gum, pies, cookies, and of course, chocolates are foods that may be problematic. Xylitol is a sugar substitute that can be dangerous to dogs. Xylitol can result in a low blood glucose in dogs called hypoglycemia. Initially you may see vomiting followed by weakness, depression, collapse, tremors, and seizures. With large doses, liver failure may occur, which may be deadly. Contacting a veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline immediately is imperative if a dog ingests xylitol.

Lastly, we cannot forget that flowers may be a delicate and beautiful gift, but some are dangerous to cats. Lilies are the type of flower we usually think of the most. If the bouquet of flowers you are gifting is going to a household with curious cats (all of them are), make sure it does not contain Lilies from the Lilium sp. or Hemerocallis sp. Examples of these lilies include the Oriental lily, stargazer lily, Asiatic lily, roselily, and daylily. Any exposure to the flower, pollen, or water can be poisonous. The toxin in these types of lilies targets the kidneys and causes kidney failure to occur. Initial signs can include vomiting and excessive salivation.  Signs then may progress to increased drinking and urination or a decrease in urination. Sadly, lily poisoning can be fatal if untreated and delayed treatment decreases the chances of survival. If your cat gets into one of these types of lilies, immediately contact Pet Poison Helpline or your veterinarian for assistance.


Written by:

Niurka Cubero Martinez, Pet Poison Helpline DVM student extern, Iowa State University, Class of 2024

Samantha Koch, CVT, Pet Poison Helpline Representative II