Thursday, February 10, 2011

Love Your Pet By Keeping Fluffy And Fido Safe This Valentine's Day, Guest Post By "The Cat Practice"

Safeguard chocolate, flowers and other gifts

   Each year around February 14, veterinary emergency hospitals  see an increase in business due to pets getting into Valentine’s Day treats and gifts.  A trip to the veterinary emergency can be stressful and costly,  but is also avoidable if you take the right precautions, says Birmingham, Michigan veterinarian Dr. Cindy Houlihan, DVM, of The Cat Practice.  

Dr. Houlihan says that Valentine's gifts – like chocolate and some flowers -- can be fatal to pets, in some cases, within a matter of a few hours.   For example, a feline patient of The Cat Practice that ate lilies out of a Valentine’s flower arrangement ended up needing three days of intravenous fluid therapy, but was lucky to survive.  Lilies are toxic to cats and consuming them quickly leads to kidney failure if left untreated.   

The Cat Practice is open seven days a week and evenings so each year we see our share of Valentine's Day emergencies,” says Dr. Houlihan.  “Pets can get into things very quickly when owners are not looking. So the best advice is to prevent the emergency in the first place.”

Dr. Houlihan says that you can still share the love with your Valentine, but keep pets safe by taking  precautions with each of these popular Valentine's Day indulgences.

Avoid lilies, which can be fatal to cats.  Tulips and carnations can also be toxic  along with more than 100 other flowers.    When you receive a flower bouquet, discard the silica packet since this can be toxic.  Also discard rubber bands which  pets can easily swallow.  If you get roses, while they are one of the safest flowers, trim the thorns since they cause serious infection if your pet gets punctured.  

Hide all chocolate.  Dark chocolate contains methylxanthines, a caffeine-like stimulant that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, seizures and elevated heart rate.  The high fat content in milk chocolate can lead to life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas.  Don’t let pets near candy, gum and other treats sweetened with the artificial sweetener xylitol.  If ingested, it can result in a sudden drop in blood sugar that can cause depression, loss of coordination and seizures.

Don’t leave half empty glasses of Champagne, wine or other alcoholic beverages left sitting out for a curious pet to lap up. Quickly clean up any spills.  A little bit of alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lack of coordination, central nervous system depression, tremors, difficulty breathing, metabolic disturbances,  coma and respiratory failure.

Avoid leaving candles unattended.  Curious cats and playful pooches can burn themselves or cause a fire by knocking over lit candles.

Gift wrap
Gather up tape, ribbons, bows, wrapping paper and cellophane.  If swallowed, any of these can get lodged in your pet’s throat or digestive tract.

What to do if you suspect your pet has consumed something toxic
Dr. Houlihan says that it is always good advice to observe pets closely and take any behavior changes seriously.  If your pet is “not acting quite right,” not eating or appears lethargic, it’s time to get to the veterinarian.  “Pets often mask their illness,”  she says.  “By the time they start showing symptoms, they are really sick.”
Cindy Houlihan, DVM
Photo Courtesy of

About Dr. Houlihan
Dr. Houlihan has been a veterinarian since 1986.  She is co-owner of  The Cat Practice, Michigan’s first "cats-only" veterinary hospital which is celebrating its 30th year.  The Cat Practice provides advanced preventative and medical care with an emphasis on early detection to help cats live longer, better and healthier lives.  Located at  875 South Worth in Birmingham, Michigan, The Cat Practice cares for feline purebred and mixed breeds from around southeastern Michigan.   For information  call 248-540-3390.


  1. Great reminder for this time of year. We have one cat that eats plants and paper and then pukes daily. I've avoid potentially fatal plants, but feel like I need to give them all away (or him) LOL

  2. Ahh, it's a good thing the family and me don't really celebrate Valentines Day! Though it is getting more and more difficult to watch what the kittens eat (I keep calling them kittens, though they're six months now! I'll probably always refer to them as kittens). Indi, for example, has discovered where Yoda is fed and sneaks up to eat his food -_- Greedy girl, she has plenty already!

  3. We know first hand that cats will drink alcohol. I like to drink from Marmie's wine glass. She has to be very careful with me around!

  4. @Diane OMG that makes me very nervous! I am beyond paranoid with pieces of paper and plants. I do have 3 plants that come inside for the winter, I keep them in a place that Cody doesn't bother with them. If he did I would give the plants away. As for paper, etc I am always on a mission of picking everything up! Nooooo I would give the plants away for sure!

    @Ruth yep at 6 mos they are still kittens :) Eating another kitty's food is fine! Better than plants! lol

    @Link omg you have had wine??? As I mentioned I am like the Kitty Police here...I even avoid bringing chocolate into the house for fear of a renegade piece touching the lips of our cat and dog! :)

  5. Thanks for sharing the reminders. I think pet owners do need this kind of reminder sometimes as we tend to forget and take many things for granted. Chocolate should be hid well too!!!

    Oh Caren, thanks so much for your kind words for Eva and our blog in the Sheltie Nation. That's really really sweet of you! Millions of thanks again!!!

  6. Nice post. Great tips. Thanks.

    pawhugs, Max

  7. Thanks for posting this great reminder. I wish everyone who does not know these things could come by and read your post and heed the warnings. Hugs and nose kisses from all of us here.

  8. Whoa, I didn't know all these facts regarding toxins and kitties. Of course, we don't have any, but still this is good info to have.

  9. Very good practical advice. Pet owners need to be reminded of these things.

  10. Euwww, Caren, this makes me wanna holler! *Chocolate*???? But I'm so glad your getting the word out, and about the lovely cat-vet too.

    Makes me feel glad that my Bugs is a little buster. See in the link below what he does with my plants. That'll learn 'em! (the plants. Not the cat.)

  11. Great tips! Hope everyone stays safe this Valentines!

  12. Good information. Too many cats eat flowers and plants and get sick.

  13. HAH! You can beg MY peeps aren't leaving any chocolate around. If I even LOOK at their chocolate, they hiss at me. I'm really good around plants. I won't even touch my catnip plant until TW gives me a few leaves.

  14. always very careful to eat all the chocolate and destroy all evidence immediately. Good to know that I was instinctively doing this for purely altruistic reasons!! :) Ms. Z.

  15. We got rid of all our plants years ago because Alex would eat them and then get sick.... One time before we went on vacation, I came home with several bottles of tequila from a client. We had them sitting on the floor in the dining room. Alex must have knocked them over while playing. When our neighbor came in to feed him, he found tequila everywhere. To this day, we don't know if Alex helped himself to a shot...

  16. Thanks for passing on the good info...should be required reading!!!

  17. Good info to pass along, thanks
    Benny & Lily

  18. Thanks for the information and the reminder. Our cat hates flowers, so I guess that's a good thing, however she likes all kinds of food, so we have to watch out. Btw, hi Caren - hope all is well!

  19. Great reminder. I can not leave a glass of anything around or Mr. Cecil will have his nose in it.
    Years ago, my lab ate an entire box of chocolate covered cherries. I was in a panic but thank God, nothing happened to her....I felt so blessed and never again kept chocolate within her reach.

  20. Hello!
    As a Ruth we also do not celebrate the Valentines day!
    There are a lot of beautiful informations in this post!

  21. Ours would definitely eat chocolate if given the chance. Really, they'd eat just about antyhing if given the chance!

  22. Aww thank you so much for this very sound and sensible advice - the list of toxic plants is really really handy to know, thank you!!!

    Take care

  23. @Priscilla you NEVER have to thank me!!! You are welcome! You know I love Eva and you and Rosie and Mika (and your husband but I don't know him lol) soooo much! You are smart to hide the chocolate and all things bad! I am crazy about not having chocolate around xoxo

    @Celia thank goodness they aren't given the chance! :)

    @Amin thanks soooo much!!!

    @Shawn OMG an entire box of chocolate covered cherries??? I would have DIED!! Thank goodness your lab was ok!

    @Cat-toure so good to see you and I hope that married life is treating you well! I am good!!! It IS good that your kitty has no interest in flowers!

    @Benny & Lily thanks! I am glad that you like it and I hope it is useful!

    @Brian, you are welcome and thank you! I agree, it SHOULD be required reading!

  24. @Hilary OMG forgive me but my first inclination was to laugh because I had this image of Alex dancing around in a sombrero shouting "Tequila!!!" like the song!!! lmao!!! You are soooo like me in the plant dept. If Cody shows one iota of interest in it, it's GONE! silly!!! :)

    @Cathy, plus I know your "peeps" LOVE their chocolate!!! lol. You ARE lady because you wait until you are told you can have it to have it! :)

  25. @Dawn thanks! I completely agree!

    @Tucker thanks! I hope so too!

    @anita, makes me want to holler too! (chocolate!) I will check out that post for sure! Thanks!

    @Mario, soooo true! thank you!!

    @Cathy Kennedy, it goes for doggies too!!! You can pass it on to your doggie and kitty lovers!

    @Mumsy thank you!! Sooo glad you like it! You are welcome to share!! :)

  26. Sound advice Caron. However there is no fear of any chocolate falling into the paws of Charlie Coal...I have it...all of it!! (well, I do share some with the family)

  27. We don't have flowers or plants of any kind in my house. I can't because Casper is relentless at trying to chew them no matter where I try to put them so they are out of reach. So I've just given up. I have a beautiful garden and my flowers stay out there :-)

  28. @Wockley thanks and thanks to the great Vet at The Cat Practice for writing this post! You have all the chocolate! I love it!

    @Cat what you do sounds like the way to go for me! Keep the plants and flowers OUTSIDE! :)

  29. Dear Caren,
    This is post are great for Valentine Season. We will be safe because of you ! Thank you : )
    Lucky my dad never buy flowers for mom. But they do love sweet ! but I'm safe because every time, thety eat chocolate like they have competition..They do it so quick ! so nothing left to harm me : )


  30. Great post and very timely too :)
    We don't have any indoor plants either,heehee
    It's a very cat friendly place :)
    Purrs Mickey, Georgia & Tillie

  31. Great information!

    Nubbin wiggles,

  32. @Oskar thanks much!! :)

    @Mickey, Georgia, Tillie thank you!! YAY! Another cat-friendly place!

    @Mr.Puddy OMG you have me laughing again!! "they eat chocolate like they have competition" You are the BEST!

  33. Wonderful post with great advice. We wish your cat practice was in Oregon! ~Feather, Shiva Lullaby, Willow, Pyewacket, Pilgrim, Onyx, and Soxie

    I came by to give Caren the link to a post I know she will love! Crazy Cat Animation
    Enjoy! ~Lydia

  34. It is really beautiful to see here..Very good practical advice to all.. I have trained my cat very well.. Thanks for the great information..

  35. Aunty Caren,
    We stick to cat grass and catnip, thank you. purrr.....meow!

  36. @Cat-In-Sydney you are soooo smart! That is the way to go! xoxo

    @Pets gift thank you and you are most welcome. I am so glad your cat is so well trained!

    @Lydia thanks so much! I will check it out!

  37. Great post! My local dog friend is in the VET after eating Choco covered raisins poor pup!

  38. Some very good tips here for keeping the kittehs safe. Thanks!

  39. @Fin thanks so much. Ohhhh nooooo that poor baby. BOTH items are toxic (raisins AND chocolate)....I pray that poor baby will be ok.

    @Pup Fan thank you!!! Good to see you!

    @Canidae thank you and thanks for your support!

  40. Sweet picture :)
    Those are great advices. all I have to worry with my pets is leftover food that falls on the floor