Valentine’s Day Pet Dangers

The Details

Some Romantic Gestures May Be Risky to Furry Loved Ones

If you’re planning something romantic this Valentine’s Day, remember to protect the ones you love – the furry ones. The toxicology experts at Pet Poison Helpline® want to warn pet lovers about the dangers posed by various common romantic gestures, such as massage oil, candles, flowers and yes, especially chocolate.

“Valentine’s Day is a holiday of love, but some romantic gift items can create unintended dangers for your pets,” said Dr. Renee Schmid, a senior veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline®. “Just after Valentine’s Day last year we received a call from the owner of a Great Dane who had ingested lavender massage oil. Fortunately, the dog did not ingest enough oil to cause systemic toxicity, but it did cause gastrointestinal irritation and posed a risk for aspiration. Flavored massage oils can be particularly dangerous depending on their contents. They can also be more enticing to an animal because of the scent.”

Perhaps the oldest and simplest way to set the mood for romance is to light a candle or two. Not only can you choose your favorite exotic scent, but the atmosphere created by the flickering light can transport you to a fantasy location. Unfortunately, it can also transport you and Fido to the pet hospital.

“There are a number of dangers associated with pets and candles,” explained Dr. Schmid. “The most obvious is the threat of a burn from the flame or hot wax, or the pet knocking over a candle and starting a fire. There is also a toxicity danger. Candle wax can pose a risk for dermal and gastrointestinal irritation with potential for ulcerative lesions.

Last February, for example, our toxicologists received a call regarding a kitten ironically named Chilli who spilled hot candle wax on his fur and then ingested the wax. The cat vomited and had what the owner described as convulsions. Chilli vocalized after the wax was spilled on him and his owner found him rolling on the floor. On physical exam at the pet hospital, no neurological deficits were noted. It is possible that the signs described by the animal’s owner as convulsions may have been related to discomfort from the presence of wax rather than a seizure-like activity.”

The standard Valentine’s Day gift for many people is flowers, but even some of those can cause concern for furry family members. Particularly for cats.

“One of the most popular flowers on Valentine’s Day is lilies, some of which unfortunately can cause acute kidney injury in cats. To help educate cat lovers about the dangers of lilies, we developed the educational campaign and website NoLiliesForKitties.com to provide cat owners a one-stop resource about this deadly threat. The site is now listed as a trusted resource for lily poisoning information on the official FDA website.”

Perhaps the best known and most serious threat to pets on Valentine’s Day is chocolate. Not only should pet lovers be concerned about their animals ingesting candy and other chocolate treats, other romantic gifts like massage oil and candles can also contain chocolate.

“Chocolate remains the number one concern when it comes to Valentine’s Day celebrations,” said Dr. Schmid. “The severity of chocolate poisoning varies greatly depending on the type and amount of chocolate ingested and the size of the pet. The darker and less sweet the chocolate, the more toxic it can be to dogs. Ingestion of the wrappers or packaging can also be a concern as they can sometimes cause an obstruction in the stomach or intestines. Also be aware that some chocolate-containing products may include other toxins such as macadamia nutsraisinscoffee or espresso beans, or xylitol.”

“Regardless of whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day, it is always a good idea for pet owners to remove potentially toxic or dangerous items from nightstands, counters or other surfaces where pets have access,” added Dr. Schmid. “You might not think it looks appetizing, but our experience shows it will intrigue your pet.

Pet Poison Helpline® created Toxin Tails to educate the veterinary community and pet lovers on the many types of poisoning dangers facing pets, both in and out of the home. All the pets highlighted in Toxin Tails have been successfully treated for the poisoning and fully recovered.


About Pet Poison Helpline®

Pet Poison Helpline®, your trusted source for toxicology and pet health advice in times of potential emergency, is available 24 hours, seven days a week for pet owners and veterinary professionals who require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet. We are an independent, nationally recognized animal poison control center triple licensed by the Boards of Veterinary Medicine, Medicine and Pharmacy providing unmatched professional leadership and expertise. Our veterinarians and board-certified toxicologists provide 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 consultations for the duration of the case. Based in Minneapolis, Pet Poison Helpline® is available in North America by calling 800-213-6680. Additional information can be found online at www.petpoisonhelpline.com.