It’s the most romantic day of the year! Don’t ruin it by exposing your pet to dangerous toxins

By Helena Sung
Updated February 11, 2010 03:11 PM

Nothing’s better on Valentine’s Day than getting flowers, truffles and those little heart-shaped candies with the cute sayings printed on them. But for pets, all that romance can be dangerous.

“Around Valentine’s Day, it’s the dogs and cats, rather than birds or other kinds of pets, that get into trouble from things such as lilies and chocolate,” Dr. Louise Murray, Director of Medicine at the ” “ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital “]in New York City, tells

Dr. Murray spoke with about the most common pet-related dangers lurking on Valentine’s Day and how you can avoid them.

1. Lose the lilies. “My biggest concern is flower arrangements because all lily flowers are extremely toxic to cats and will cause fatal kidney failure,” says Dr. Murray. Even a tiny nibble of any part of the lily plant can be deadly to felines. If you have cats in your home, make sure that mixed arrangements of flowers do not contain any type of lilies and, if they do, pluck them out. “Cats can get almost anywhere,” says Dr. Murray. “And as the lilies wilt the petals can fall off and I’ve seen cats get toxicity that way.” If you think your cat has been exposed to any part of the lily plant, bring them immediately to the vet, Dr. Murray advises.

2. Give chocolates to your paramour, not your pooch! Most of us know that chocolate is toxic to dogs. How toxic, depends on the kind of chocolate – baker’s, semi-sweet, milk or dark – and whether it is mixed into cake or cookies. Generally, the darker and more solid it is, the higher the toxicity, says Dr. Murray. “The best thing to do is to call poison control because they can tell you by the amount of chocolate the dog ate, what product it was, and how big your dog is, how worried you need to be.” (Click here to read about Mario Menounos’s chocolate nightmare.)

3. Keep sugar-free foods out of your pet’s reach. Xylitol, an artificial sweetener found in many types of sugar-free candies and baked goods, is toxic to dogs and can cause liver failure, says Dr. Murray. It’s best to read the ingredients list on any sugar-free foods and keep any products containing Xylitol out of your pet’s reach.

4. Toss the ribbon and string. Gifts are a nice surprise on Valentine’s Day, but make sure to throw away any pretty ribbons and string they’ve been tied with. “For some reason it’s very instinctive for cats to eat it,” warns Dr. Murray. “It gets caught in their intestines and can saw right through them and cause a perforation.”

5. Dump or drink any leftover booze. Be mindful of half-full glasses of champagne or wine left unattended for curious pets to explore. Even a little bit of alcohol can be very harmful to small animals, states the ASPCA, potentially causing “vomiting, diarrhea, lack of coordination, central nervous system depression, tremors, difficulty breathing, metabolic disturbances, coma” and even fatal respiratory failure.

6. Blow out the candles. The warm glow of candlelight is romantic and flattering, but open flames present obvious dangers. “You should never leave your pet alone with a lit candle or fire,” says Dr. Murray. “They can knock over candles and harm themselves and your home.”

7. Every rose has a thorn, so be sure to remove them! Make sure the quintessential symbol of Valentine’s Day is pet-friendly. “Biting, chewing or stepping on thorny roses can cause trauma, but there are also certain infections that can be passed by the thorn, too,” says Dr. Murray.

Should your pet get into mischief on Valentine’s Day, the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year at (888) 426-4435. (A $65 consultation fee may apply.)