Valentine’s Day seems to polarize people – some hate the holiday, others love it.  However, there is no doubt that Valentine’s Day festivities can cause discomfort and, in some cases, serious illness for your pets. To help keep pets safe from hazards, the emergency doctors at Newtown Veterinary Specialists offer some warnings and advice:

Chocolate: Is there a more beloved Valentine’s Day gift than chocolate? Probably not! Chocolate is delicious – your dog probably thinks so too!  Be sure to keep it away from your pooch.  You would be surprised how tenacious your dog can be: Many dogs that are seen for chocolate toxicity at Newtown Veterinary Specialists’ emergency service went to great lengths to get at it – breaking into rooms, pulling purses off shelves, and even unwrapping packages! Chocolate is a dose-dependent toxin. The amount (in ounces) and type of chocolate, and your dog’s weight and general health status, are all important in determining if he or she ingested enough of it to cause concern. Chocolate can cause life-threatening heart arrhythmias as well as gastrointestinal upset.  If your dog has ingested chocolate, feel free to call us for an assessment of the risk.

Xylitol: Check that bag of Valentine’s Day candy! If it contains xylitol, you may want to “re-gift” it to someone who doesn’t  have pets. Xylitol, a naturally occurring sugar alcohol, provides a pleasantly sweet taste without the calories – for people, that is. For pets, ingestion of xylitol can lead to life-threatening hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and in the worst cases, liver failure.  If your pet has ingested xylitol, immediately call ASPCA Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435.

Fatty leftovers from dinner: Often, that special Valentine’s Day dinner is fatty – a meal rich in butter, cream or both. While some human foods can be safe for pets, it’s imperative to avoid fatty or rich foods. Fatty foods can precipitate pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas that can lead to vomiting and diarrhea and, in some cases, very severe illness that can result in hospitalization.

Flowers:  Another favorite gift, Valentine’s Day flowers are often displayed for days on end. Fortunately, roses are safe for cats and dogs! While some flowers and greenery are harmless to pets, others are highly toxic if ingested. Some of the worst offenders include lilies (kidney failure); amaryllis (vomiting and depression); tulip and narcissus bulbs (gastrointestinal irritation); oleander (heart arrhythmias); cyclamen (vomiting and death, potentially); and autumn crocus (multi-organ damage and death). Look up lists of toxic plants at

Foreign bodies: A seemingly harmless pile of discarded wrapping paper and ribbon may look like a fun toy to your pet. Although some dogs and cats can “pass” things that they eat, sometimes foreign material can become lodged in the gastrointestinal tract, leading to life-threatening obstructions or perforations.  Vomiting and loss of appetite are some of the first symptoms seen with a gastrointestinal obstruction. Please call right away if your cat or dog is vomiting.

Share the love with your pets this Valentine’s Day by keeping them safe! If you have any questions about something that your pet may have ingested, Newtown Veterinary Specialists is available  24 hours a day, 365 days a year, at 203-270-VETS (8387).