I’m often interviewed by media about various cat behavior and dog training issues, and of course, Valentine’s pet dangers top the list this week. Pet hazards are common when our normal routine goes out the window, so pet parents are vigilant around the holidays. Refer to this post about Easter dangers for pets. And don’t forget that pet safety issues for Christmas are similar to those for Valentine’s Day but it’s always good to refresh our watch list.
5 VALENTINES DANGERS DANGERS & WHAT TO DO
The top danger at Valentine’s and Easter for dogs is chocolate–in particular the dark chocolate and truffles-type candy. Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, and both can speed up the heart rate and in high enough concentrations, cause vomiting, diarrhea or even death. It takes about two pounds of milk chocolate to poison a 7-pound pet.
Baker’s chocolate has 10 times as much theobromine so that 7-pound pet could get sick from eating only 2 ounces. Dark chocolate has a higher concentration, so is more dangerous. Dogs are poisoned more often (cats don’t have a sweet tooth like dogs and people!), and if you see a dog lick the frosting off the cake or break into Valentine’s truffles, induce vomiting immediately and then get vet care.
The best way to make dogs vomit is to first feed a small meal (that dilutes the poison and also makes it easier to induce vomiting). Then give 3% hydrogen peroxide (about 1-2 teaspoons/10 pounds of pet) to make him vomit. Use a turkey baster or squirt gun if you don’t have a syringe applicator. You’ll find more tips on how to make pets vomit at this post.
RIBBONS & STRING
The top danger for cats is swallowed ribbon/string type decorations associated with Valentine’s gifts. Oh, the packaging looks glorious and it may delight your playful cat just as much as it does you. Dogs swallow dangerous stuff all the time–here’s what to do.
Cats play with any moving object, and while supervised play is fine, when swallowed, the string item can cut internal organs and/or create a blockage. Once the cat starts swallowing, she can’t stop…to make the tickle go away, she keeps gulping until it’s all inside. It may take a day or so before you even notice a problem when the ribbon or string clog up the “plumbing.”
Again, if you see the cat swallow the string, immediately induce vomiting (same as with dogs). However, cats are harder to get to vomit, so after one dose, get the kitty vet help. Also…if you see string/ribbon hanging outside the mouth OR the anus, DO NOT PULL! The other end of the string may be caught on the inside, so tugging could cut the organs. Often, when cats swallow thread, a needle may be on one end, and the thread may wrap around the base of the cat’s tongue. The movement of the intestines (peristalsis, sort of like an inchworm) can make the tissue gather like fabric on the thread. A vet visit is vital. And of course, to prevent, just supervise ribbon play and dispose of dangerous items.
TOXIC PLANTS & PETS
Also, be VERY careful of the types of Valentine’s flowers and plants that are within paw-reach. Roses ARE edible and safe, but the thorns can be an issue. In particular, lily can kill dogs and especially cats, causing kidney failure. Cats don’t even have to eat them–just drink from water in the container, or claw the plant and lick claws clean. Check out this PAW-some page with a list of 199 poisonous plants and what to do.
BAGS, BOXES & PACKAGING
Cats love bags, right? And some cats adore licking plastic, which can be a BIG concern. Oftentimes, the plastic is a petroleum product derivative of some kind, and maybe that’s why cats like the flavor. Ingestion is a problem with both dogs and cats, so be sure to properly dispose of dangerous packing materials.
While bags (not plastic!) can be great fun for cats, be very careful of those bags with handles. A hiding cat that darts out of the bag can get the handle caught around his neck. That’s a potential choking hazard at worst, and also creates terror when the cat runs and the bag “chases” the kitty. That happened one time with Seren-Kitty when she was a kitten (20 years ago!) and was an early lesson for me. Now I throw out plastics, and cut the handles on any bags so they’re safe for kitty hide aways.
Another issue around Valentine’s Day for both cats and dogs is something I call ‘STRANGER DANGER.’ When a pet isn’t familiar with the new guy or gal you’re dating, that can put the pet’s tail in a twist. For some pets, that simply means they hide. Others, though, can become fearful and turn aggressive toward the new person. And the fear may actually prompt the pet to try and escape–and getting out of the house can mean a lost pet or hit by car or any number of things. The best prevention, of course, is to slowly introduce pets to strangers to ensure there’s a future love connection. And if you haven’t had time to do the intros, simply confine your dog or cat in a safe room away from the stranger.
What about you? Have you “pet proofed” your Valentine’s Day plans? Chosen Valentine’s gifts for the pets and the humans? Do tell!
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!