Valentine dogIt’s almost Valentine’s Day. And while that may mean a dinner date, candy, and flowers for you; it could also mean a veterinary visit for many pets, too.

We don’t often think about common Valentine’s gifts being dangerous for pets, but many items can make pets sick or worse. Use caution when celebrating this year and ensure a happy Valentine’s Day for everyone in your household by following these Valentine’s Day safety tips for your pets….

Xylitol

Sweets and treats abound this time of year. And unfortunately, whether it be through well-intentioned sharing or a romp on your countertops or through the garbage, many pets are partaking in these treats – but they shouldn’t be.

Baked goods and candies are being increasingly sweetened with an ingredient called Xylitol. While Xylitol is safe for people to eat, it can have some devastating effects on our pets:

Because pets absorb Xylitol very quickly into their bloodstreams, ingestion can trigger a release of a large amount of insulin from the pancreas. This results in a life-threatening drop in blood sugar levels.

Low blood sugar can result in loss of coordination, depression, collapse, and even seizures within 30 minutes of ingestion.

Xylitol ingestion also causes liver failure in some pets, which can be fatal as well.

Xylitol poisoning in animals has increased dramatically in frequency in the last 10 years.

Common items that contain Xylitol include low-sugar or diabetic baked goods and candies, chewing gums, cold remedies, and toothpaste.

Chocolate

Chocolate is a Valentine’s Day staple in most homes, but it can be a serious danger to our pets. Chocolate can be very toxic for both dogs and cats (less so for felines, but the risk is still there), resulting in serious illness and occasionally death.

The toxic ingredient in chocolate is a methylxanthine chemical called theobromine.

Theobromine is a caffeine-like compound that results in increased heart rate, blood vessel dilation, and the relaxation of the organ muscles.

Lower doses result in agitation and gastrointestinal signs such as drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Higher doses of theobromine can cause high heart rate, blood pressure, and even abnormal heart rhythms. At still higher doses, tremors, seizures, and death can occur.

The amount of theobromine contained in chocolate varies with the type. Cooking or baking chocolate have the most, followed by dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate.

A 50 pound dog would need to eat only 1 ounce of baking chocolate or 8 ounces of milk chocolate to potentially show signs of toxicity.

The high fat content of white chocolate can also cause inflammation of the pancreas, which can be very serious.

If you think your pet has ingested Xylitol or chocolate, be sure to contact your veterinarian immediately. With toxin ingestion time is of the essence, and the faster the problem is treated the more successful the outcome can be.

Try to avoid sharing human treats with your pets this Valentine’s Day and be sure to store all goodies in a location away from curious pets.