Valentine’s Day isn’t just for exchanging candy hearts and cards with people you love. You can also celebrate Valentine’s Day with your dog. Give them a special toy or treat, take them for a long walk, or cuddle on the couch. However you choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day, be aware that many holiday traditions can pose a hazard to your pet. From toxic sweets to choking hazards, the following list will help keep your dog safe as you celebrate with your loved ones.
It may be a traditional Valentine’s Day gift to exchange with other people, but chocolate is absolutely off-limits for dogs. Although harmless to humans, chocolate contains both caffeine and theobromine, which can cause serious and potentially fatal health issues in dogs. These substances affect a dog’s heart and central nervous system, and the more they ingest, the more serious the consequences.
Certain types of chocolate contain a higher percentage of caffeine and theobromine than others, which makes them more harmful. For example, ounce for ounce, unsweetened baker’s chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. Plus, the heavier the dog, the more they can tolerate. As a general rule, serious side effects can occur with around one ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight.
So, if your dog licks the wrapper of your bonbon box, it’s probably not a problem. But if they consume a few of those bonbons, it might be time for the emergency vet. It can take over six hours before symptoms start, but always play it safe and immediately contact your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline (855-213-6680) for advice.
Cakes and Cookies
Baked goods (like cakes, cookies, chocolate-chip muffins, and cakes iced with chocolate frosting) can be sources of chocolate. They might also contain other dangerous foods like cinnamon, which can irritate the lining of the mouth and lower blood sugar, or macadamia nuts, which are one of the most dangerous foods for dogs. Especially if you don’t know the exact ingredients, keep all baked goods out of your dog’s reach.
Candy, particularly the sugar-free kind, can contain xylitol. This sugar substitute is also found in gum, mints, some types of peanut butter, baked goods, and many surprising household products. Xylitol is toxic for dogs and can cause severe hypoglycemia (lower than normal blood sugar levels) or even liver failure if they eat it. Symptoms such as weakness, vomiting, and seizures can occur as soon as 30 minutes after your dog ingests this dangerous substance, although it can take more than 12 hours depending on the speed of absorption.
Flowers and Plants
Flowers are another traditional Valentine’s gift and decoration. But not all plants are safe for your dog. Many common bouquet varieties, like lilies, chrysanthemums, or tulips, can make your dog ill if they eat them, irritating their mouth or intestines and causing vomiting, drooling, and diarrhea. Flowers such as roses can also have thorns that can get stuck in your dog’s paw or nose if they decide to investigate too closely.
Gift Wrap, Ribbons, and Balloons
Dogs love to explore anything you’ve touched, and discarded gift wrap and trimmings are no exception. Especially if they’ve been wrapped around food or other smelly items like candles or cologne. But ribbons, strips of paper, and tape can all pose a choking hazard if your dog tries to eat them.
Watch out for balloons as well. They can frighten your dog when they pop, and the pieces of remaining rubber or latex pose a choking or obstruction risk if ingested.
Candles and Alcohol
Nothing says Valentine’s Day romance like candles and a bottle of wine. But keep both away from your dog. Open flames are dangerous because your dog could accidentally cause a fire if they knock the candle over or bump it with their tail. And alcohol is harmful if your dog drinks it. Just as with chocolate, the percentage of alcohol in the beverage and the weight of the dog are factors. But to be safe, a no-alcohol policy is best.
Pet-Proof the House
To truly enjoy Valentine’s Day, familiarize yourself with the common dangers to your dog and pet-proof your house. For example, keep hazardous items out of reach, don’t leave food unattended, and clean up any gift wrap or chocolate wrappers.
It’s also helpful to teach your dog a solid leave-it cue to prevent them from getting into anything dangerous in the first place. Finally, know the phone number and location of your emergency vet and post the Pet Poison Helpline number in an obvious place so you can reach help immediately if you need it. Then you can relax and celebrate the holiday with your friends, family, and most of all, your dog.