Valentine’s Day is an annual holiday, celebrated on February 14 with the purpose of promoting love. Because we love our four-legged family members, it is important to remember that certain Valentine’s Day hazards should be kept away from pets, including chocolate, xylitol, alcohol, flowers and certain gifts.

Chocolate is very toxic to pets and can cause gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and neurologic disease including vomiting, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, overexcitation, and seizures. Because the required treatment for chocolate consumption can be expensive, you should limit the risk of exposure in the home environment, as well as keeping candy wrappers out of reach for pets.

Xylitol is a sweetener often found in sugar-free candies, gum, breath mints and children’s medications that is toxic for pets, especially dogs. If ingested, it may cause vomiting, loss of coordination and seizures. 

Opening a bottle of champagne is common among people celebrating Valentine’s Day, but alcohol consumption for pets can cause vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing and more.

Caution should be used when choosing and displaying flowers for your loved ones. Lilies should be kept away from cats. If ingested, varietals such as Tiger Lilies and Easter Lilies may cause feline acute kidney failure in other cats. Other types of lilies, including Peace Lilies and Calla Lilies, cause gastric and oral irritation, and vomiting if ingested. Even roses are hazardous. The thorns may cause an upset stomach and difficultly defecating.

Care should be taken with wrapped gifts, especially small items that are easy to swallow. Bows, ribbons and other adornments can be enticing to pets, as well as dangerous if ingested.

If your pet becomes sick or if you think that it may have ingested something harmful, contact your veterinarian immediately. Delays in seeking veterinary help may seriously complicate the problem. If your pet requires medical care after-hours, you can bring your pet to the LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital on Skip Bertman Drive; the hospital is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and remains open even during holidays. Please call 225-578-9600 or go to www.lsu.edu/vetmed for more information about the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Other good resources are the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control at http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control or the Pet Poison Helpline http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/. Help is available through these websites and their respective phone numbers 24 hours a day.