Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. But before you love up your dog or cat, please be aware of some of the poison dangers that are associated with this Hallmark holiday (I’ve always hated this holiday myself, but hey …). A shout out to Pet Poison Helpline for sharing this information with us.

Certain flowers, candies and sweeteners can be poisonous to your pets, so for once, your boyfriend shouldn’t get you flowers or sweets. Here are the top three dangers associated with "V-day."

  • True lilies — those of the Lilium spp. and Hemerocallis spp. family, frequently sold in fresh bouquets. Before bringing a new Valentine’s bouquet into your home, make sure there are no dangerous lilies in them! The most dangerous are the Stargazer lily, Tiger lily, other Asiatic lilies, and some species of day lilies. They contain a water-soluble poison in the petals, leaves, pollen, and even the water in the vase. When ingested by cats, lilies result in severe, acute kidney failure within 1-2 days of exposure. The ingestion of just one or two leaves or petals can cause sudden kidney failure. If untreated, the exposure will likely result in death. Even ingesting small amounts of pollen from a cat’s fur is considered poisonous (i.e., when they groom themselves or each other). Thankfully, these plants don’t cause serious harm in dogs, only in cats. When ingested by dogs, they will result only in mild gastrointestinal upset.
  • Roses are red, violets are blue, but biting a thorn can do damage to you … and your pets. Thankfully, roses do not often cause serious poisoning beyond gastrointestinal upset (e.g., vomiting, diarrhea) when ingested by pets. That said, there’s risk for trauma to the mouth and paws from the thorns. While rare, if a large amount is ingested, a bowel obstruction may result. That said, these are much safer pet-friendly alternatives to lilies or random bouquets!
  • The biggest danger? Chocolate. Chocolate and cocoa contain theobromine, a chemical similar to caffeine that’s highly toxic to dogs and cats. The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains, meaning that baker’s chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate and gourmet dark chocolates are the most dangerous. Foods covered or dipped in chocolate can also be dangerous, as in addition to the chocolate, the food inside can be toxic to pets. The most dangerous are chocolate covered raisins, espresso beans, and macadamia nuts. In general, white chocolate has very little theobromine, but all types of chocolate contain large amounts of sugar and fat, which can potentially result in pancreatitis.
  • Sugar-free treats. For Valentine’s Day, beware of sugar-free gum, candy, baked goods, and breath mints containing the ingredient xylitol. This natural sugar-free sweetener can cause a life-threatening drop in blood sugar as well as liver failure in dogs. Typically, the dose required to cause poisoning is at least 0.05 grams per pound of body weight (0.1 grams per kilogram of body weight). Chewing gums and breath mints can contain as much 100 percent xylitol per piece, so a ten pound dog would only have to eat as little as one piece of gum to experience a potentially toxic dose!

Show your pets lots of love this Valentine’s Day and throughout the year by protecting them from harm. If you think your pet may have ingested something harmful, take action immediately. Contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-213-6680. Better yet, show your love in safer, calorie burning ways instead.

Dr. Justine Lee

Image: Borodaev / via Shutterstock