February 12, 2009 05:12 PM

While February 14th conjures up images of flowers and chocolates, for pets, these token items can pose terrifying health risks. The ASPCA recently released a list of tips for pet owners on keeping their furry friends safe this Valentine’s Day:

No Chocolate for Your Pets! “Chocolate can be potentially poisonous to animals,” says Dr. Steven Hansen, board-certified veterinary toxicologist and Senior Vice President of the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) in Urbana, Ill. Dr. Hansen advises pet parents to watch for symptoms of excessive ingestion of chocolate, including vomiting, diarrhea, increased urination and thirst, abnormal heart rate and rhythm as well as hyperactivity and seizures.

Keep The Roses Out of Reach. “Animals are very good at sniffing out things they shouldn’t eat,” says Dr. Hansen. “Pet parents might notice symptoms of stomach upset, such as vomiting or diarrhea, if their pet has ingested a particularly offensive plant or flower. Most notably, cat owners should be extremely careful if they have lilies in the house, as these lovely flowers can be deadly.”

Skip the Gum. Gum and candy often contain large amounts of the sweetener xylitol, which can be toxic to pets, especially dogs. Ingestion can produce a fairly sudden drop in blood sugar, and results in depression, loss of coordination, seizures and even liver failure.

Love Your Pet, Don’t Give One as a Gift. “It may be very tempting to give your loved one a cuddly new puppy or kitten for Valentine’s Day,” explains Gail Buchwald, Senior Vice President of the ASPCA’s Adoption Center. “However, before you bring home that precious little one, remember that adopting a companion animal is a big decision.” A better idea? Give your loved one a Gift-A-Pet certificate to adopt from the ASPCA or your local shelter.

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