PET CARE: Valentine’s Day brings holiday hazards

Veterinarian Nicolette Joosting shares her tips for keeping your pets safe this Valentine’s Day

By Nicolette Joosting

Pet owners are generally aware that their furry family members cannot celebrate holidays in the same way humans do, and we need to take precautions to keep our pets safe. Valentine’s Day is no exception, as it shares some of the same hazards as Christmas and Easter.


The worst gift you can give is a pet. No matter how cute that puppy, kitten, bunny or lizard may be, animals are not fluffy toys. They are not disposable, nor can they be re-gifted or returned. The shelters are full of unwanted pets – taking on the care burden of the thoughtless.

A pet can be an expensive and long-term commitment, requiring specialized care and housing. So if you want heart-melting cutie for your nest that evening, buy a soft toy, not an animal.


Most dog owners know chocolate causes problems for dogs. Chocolate contains theobromine, which has a similar effect to caffeine: causing vomiting, a racing heart, muscle tremors, seizures, agitation or hyperactivity. Some chocolates and candies also contain xylitol, a sweetener that can cause liver failure in our cats and dogs.

Dogs are also very sensitive to the effects of THC, the main psychoactive component in cannabis. The marijuana “high” is not much fun for a dog, as they suffer disorientation, a lack of coordination, extremely low heart rates, low blood pressure, vomiting and seizures.

While most dogs recover from eating THC, if they get appropriate care, those chocolate edibles have proven to be a lethal combination.


Crinkly wrappers, ribbons and fine lacy bits are beautiful on presents, but dangerous when eaten by a pet: although most wrapping can be rescued from your pet through surgery, it can sometimes cause death.

Cats have little backwards facing barbs on the back of their tongues, and once they start swallowing a string or ribbon, these barbs catch the object, so they have no choice but to continue swallowing until it’s all down. Those long stringy hazards can cause the intestines to ravel up on themselves, accordion-style.

Dogs love to eat things and every veterinarian will have their favorite what-came-out-of-the-dog story. Lingerie is no exception!


Any cat owner knows cats cannot resist a bouquet, but investigating a lily leads to fatal acute kidney failure in cats. There are several cut flowers that we love to have around this time of year that are toxic to cats, but lilies are the most tragically lethal. If the love of your life is a cat owner, buy a pot of cat grass or a cat-safe plant and skip the flowers. A list of non-toxic plants can be found online through the SPCA’s animal poison control website.

The take-away

This Valentine’s Day, enjoy your holiday. But be sure to keep the goodies in a cupboard well out of reach and tidy up after yourself.

And if you want to include your pet in the day of love, feel free to indulge in safe treats, cute bandanas and yet more goofy cat toys. This may be a good time to gift that super cozy pet bed, but even better would be to make sure your pet has ID registered with the BC Pet Registry and you have pet insurance or a savings plan to deal with any pet emergencies.

Nicolette Joosting is a Harrison Hot Springs resident and veterinarian who has recently retired from her Vancouver Feline practice. She keeps herself busy through the Harrison veterinary service, her blog and by volunteering in the community.


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