5 Important Pet Toxins to Know for Valentine’s Day

  1. Chocolate
    Being surprised with that heart-shaped box of chocolates could figuratively make your heart skip a beat, but this could become a reality if your pets ingest them! Chocolate contains theobromine, a strong stimulant to dogs and cats. It causes a dangerously elevated heart rate, abnormal heart rhythm, and in worse-case scenarios, it could cause seizures or death. Even though pets should never be given chocolate of any kind, dark chocolate contains significantly more theobromine than milk chocolate and could lead to these signs with much smaller amounts.
  2. Lilies
    Although gifting flowers is a romantic gesture, be sure to avoid bouquets with lilies! True lilies are extremely toxic to cats and even a small amount of pollen, foliage, or vase water from lilies can cause kidney failure.
  3. Xylitol
    If a packaging states “sugar free” or “low calorie”, there is a good chance the product contains artificial sweeteners. A common artificial sweetener, xylitol, causes a rapid insulin release in dogs, which could lead to a life-threatening drop in blood sugar and liver failure. Be sure to check the label before bringing home any sweets!
  4. Essential Oils
    Concentrated essential oils can cause a variety of concerning symptoms for our pets, with some even causing neurological signs and liver or kidney injury. Common concerning essential oils include tea tree, peppermint, pine, and citrus oil.
  5. Alcohol
    Champagne, wine, and other alcoholic drinks can be a fun part of a Valentine’s Day celebration, but glasses should not be left unattended! Alcohol can cause symptoms ranging from gastrointestinal distress to a loss of consciousness. Be sure to keep your pets away from alcoholic beverages.


Pet Poison Helpline®, an animal poison control center based in Minneapolis, is available 24 hours, seven days a week for pet owners and veterinary professionals that require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet. The staff provides treatment advice for poisoning cases of all species, including dogs, cats, birds, small mammals, large animals, and exotic species. As the most cost-effective option for animal poison control care, Pet Poison Helpline®’s fee of $85 per incident includes follow-up consultation for the duration of the poison case. Pet Poison Helpline® is available in North America by calling 800-213-6680. Additional information can be found online at


Written by:

Anne Desalvo, DVM student extern, University of Minnesota Class of 2023
& Kathy Wolsieffer, CVT, Veterinary Information Specialist II