Valentine's to Vets – When Romance goes Wrong

It is almost Valentine’s Day, and love is in the air. 


Love for our family, love for our friends, and love for our pets - many of us celebrate this occasion at home with both our human and animal companions. Whilst having your furry friend slobber over your candlelit dinner may not scream ‘romance’, isn’t it nice that we get to share the festivities with Fido and Felix?

But, beware as many gifts associated with Valentine’s Day are not pet friendly, so make sure to put away the following treats before ‘Netflix and Chill’ turns into ‘Vet Checks and Bills’.

1. Chocolate

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The most traditional of gifts this season, a box of chocolates can sweeten any relationship. However, did you know that chocolate/cocoa contains a chemical called theobromine which is poisonous to dogs and cats AND rabbits?!

This chemical can damage the stomach, kidneys, hearts and nervous system of your pet, and the darker the chocolate, the bigger the risk. If your pet does eat any chocolate, keep the packaging and contact your vet immediately.

Don’t forget about chocolate coated treats too. Chocolate covered raisins and macadamia nuts pose even greater risk to pets due to these ingredients also being toxic.

2. Flowers

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The scent of fresh flowers wafting through the air is bound to put any partner into a stupor. But beware, some flowers are not as delicate as they seem. Lilies are highly toxic to cats and can cause life-threatening illness; ingesting any part of the plant or even drinking the water from the vase can cause acute kidney failure. Early signs of poisoning include vomiting and drooling, however if there is any chance your cat came into contact with a lily take them straight to a vet.

The more quintessential flower that conjures feelings of love are red roses, however, be careful of those thorns! A thorn can be a very painful addition to a pet’s paw, so if you bring any roses into the house be sure to keep them far away from your animals.

3. Garlic/Onion Leftovers

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Were you planning a romantic Valentine’s Day roast for your significant other this Sunday? Keep the garlic roast potatoes, braised leeks and onion gravy far away from your pets, as these foods are all highly poisonous! Plants of the Allium family contain a substance that can damage your dog or cat’s blood cells and cause life-threatening anaemia. Garlic and onion are the basis for many cuisines (including our Valentine's Tempeh *neatballs*!, so be careful and make sure all ingredients are put away after food preparations are over.

4. Alcohol

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Valentine’s Day is a day of celebration so pop the champagne, pour the wine and cheers! However, did you know our pets are even bigger lightweights than we are? Animals are more sensitive to ethanol, so even a small amount of alcohol can be deadly. Enjoy a glass or two but be sure to clean up any spillages with pet-safe cleaning products and remove all bottles and glasses from prying paws.

Don’t forget, ethanol is also in cologne, perfumes and mouthwash, so put the pre-date preparations back where they belong.  Symptoms of alcohol poisoning in dogs are similar to that of humans, so if you fear your dog may be wobbling around after finding the last drop of Bailey’s then call your vet immediately.

5. Painkillers

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Feeling the effects of last night? Sat at your desk Monday morning regretting that nightcap? You may find yourself reaching for some Paracetamol or Ibuprofen to battle that dreaded hangover. Whilst helpful to humans, painkillers such as these are actually highly toxic to pets. Year after year, vets report over the counter medication such as these as the most common toxin ingested by pets; just 100mg of Ibuprofen can cause toxicosis symptoms in a 10kg dog!

Ibuprofen poisoning can bring on symptoms such as decreased appetite, vomiting and black tar-like faeces, so if there is a chance your pet has ingested any medication it shouldn’t have, contact a vet immediately. To be on the safe side: take your medication, put it back in the medicine drawer, drink plenty of water and be thankful Valentine’s is only one day a year!

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Rebecca Dharmpaul

Campaigns Officer

Becky works in the Campaigns Team at FOUR PAWS UK, managing our Make Food Kinder and Dog Cat Meat Trade campaigns. She has a background in Zoology and animal welfare within sanctuaries, with over five years experience across several animal non-profits to aid in the protection of animals, both in the UK and internationally.

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