Valentine’s Day Food for Thought

                                      Photo by Jill Wellington

Sweetest, Prettiest, Tastiest and Toxic

A flower bouquet, an elegant plant, a luscious box of candy, a fruit and nut basket all gifts of affection, even love. Certainly, a Valentine’s
Day message to the lucky recipient that says, “I Care”. All well and good if you walk on two legs. For animals and pets many Valentine’s Day gifts should come wrapped with bright yellow warning tape labeled, “Poisonous, Toxic, Could be Harmful if Swallowed”. Conversely, the sad truth is the sweetest, prettiest, tastiest gifts can cause the most harm to little critters, animals and pets.

                                    Photo by Mac231

Food for Thought

Should we stamp our foot down and refuse such gifts? Abandon the prospect of celebrating such a beloved holiday? Honestly, I wouldn’t turn down a bag of jaw breakers if someone was thoughtful enough to give them to me. Instead, don’t get caught up in the moment and let your guard down. Unfortunately, with pets we always have to be hypervigilant in keeping sticky paws and beaks and prying tongues and inquisitive noses out of our stuff. That said, below are just a few of the most prevalent, yet possibly harmful plants and food, likely to be given on Valentine’s Day and other special occasions. This is not a naysayer to gift giving. But rather facts about pets that I found interesting and that certainly helped me prepare gift baskets with more insight and care. 

                                                             Photo by Arek Sacha



 FLOWERS –                                                                      Surprisingly, many flowers found in bouquets are harmful to cats and dogs. Take a look at our short list of flowers: Asian Lilly, Azalea, Bird of Paradise, Calla Lily, Daffodil, Day lily, Easter lily, Lilies, Lilly of the Valley (all Lililum Species), Eucalyptus, Ferns, Gladiolas, Honeysuckle, Hydrangea, Iris, Morning Glory, Rhododendron, Tulip.                                                
LILIES –                                                                          Unquestionably, be extremely careful if your arrangement contains lilies, as these lovely flowers are fatally poisonous to cats. CHOCOLATE – Generally, the darker the chocolate the more toxic for dogs, cats and birds. Did you know chocolate can actually cause cardiac arrest if ingested in large quantity? Among other issues, chocolate causes abnormally high heart rhythms in dogs. Baking chocolate is especially toxic.                                    
SUGAR FREE CANDIES –                                                          Ironically, sugar-free candies and gums often contain large amounts of xylitol, a sweetener that’s toxic to pets, especially dogs. If ingested, it may cause vomiting, loss of coordination, seizures, and in severe cases, liver failure. GRAPES AND RAISIN – Grape and/or raisin ingestion–even small amounts can be toxic for some dogs. While other dogs can ingest relatively large amounts without developing obvious symptoms.

Aw Nuts!

MACADAMIA NUTS –                                                  Significantly, ingestion of macadamia nuts by dogs has been associated with a non-fatal syndrome. Symptoms are characterized by vomiting, ataxia or weakness, fever, muscle tremors and depression. Dogs are the only species in which signs have been reported. ENGLISH WALNUTS, JAPANESE WALNUTS, BLACK WALNUTS – should not be fed to pets. Apart from the risk of intestinal obstruction and stomach irritation, walnuts can be toxic to dogs. PISTACHIOS – carry Aspergillus mold that produces aflatoxin and can wreak havoc on a dog’s liver. Apart from risky fungi lurking about, pistachios are also a choking hazard. Basically they can block your pooch’s intestine – particularly when not shelled. PECANS – Same as pistachios, pecans can have aflatoxin, a substance that can cause liver damage to dogs. Pecans can also contain juglone, a toxin that’s harmful to dogs and horses. PINE NUTS – While high in fat and phosphorus, pine nuts can irritate a dog’s stomach even when eaten in small quantities. If a dog’s eaten a large amount of pine nuts or has been eating them regularly, they might develop pancreatitis or urinary tract complications. BRAZIL NUTS – are not toxic to dogs. But long-term, eating brazil nuts can cause pancreatitis in canines. OTHER HARMFUL NUTS – Dogs can eat ALMONDS but they’re hard for them to digest. HAZELNUTS can be eaten but can cause choking  hazards for small dogs. Chiefly, they can get stuck in larger dog’s intestines since they tend to gobble them up. CASHEWS can also be eaten but have a high level of potassium and can cause health issues with dogs that are prone to urinary problems. 
                                Photo by Bruno/Germany

Fruits and Veggies – how can you possibly go wrong?

Hamsters will hoard as much food as they can in their fat little cheeks. Filling them up to double or triple the size of their head is not uncommon. Crazy, huh? Because of this, Hamster food shouldn’t have anything sticky or anything that’ll go bad or rot after being in their mouth for a while. This includes fresh vegetables such as carrots, kale, strawberries and bananas. Oh, oh, you just finished carefully constructing a lovely fruit and nut basket for your vegan friend. Strawberries dipped in chocolate, bananas, assorted nuts, fruits and vegetables. Then you read this blog and remember her son’s hamster and dog. Get out of your head and don’t feel bad about giving her the basket. Just casually mention what you just learned, inform her of its contents and continue being the good friend that you are. 

Going to the Birds

AVOCADOS – the leaves of the avocado plant contain persin, a fatty acid-like compound that acts as a fungicide in the plant. When ingested by a bird, this compound may cause heart damage, respiratory difficulty, weakness, and even sudden death. Certain types of avocado have been safely consumed by some bird species. But overall, it’s very difficult to know which types and how much avocado will affect which species. Caffeine may increase heart rate, lead to arrhythmias and hyperactivity, and even induce cardiac arrest in birds. So, skip the caffeinated products, and opt for water or an occasional taste of fruit juice for your thirsty bird. Like us, birds have a hard time resisting chocolate or chocolate-containing foods. However, even in very small amounts, they can be toxic to birds. Chocolate contains both theobromine and caffeine. Accordingly it can lead to vomiting and diarrhea, increased heart rate, induce tremors and seizures and cause hyperactivity and even death in birds. Consider the next time you’re tempted to share an M&M or Hershey’s Kiss with your avian pal, offer instead, sugary fruit, like a mango, cantaloupe or grape. Salt, many of us add this favorite condiment to many different foods without a thought. Plus, who doesn’t love salty chips, popcorn, pretzels and crackers? But, just as too much salt isn’t good for us, it’s also not good for birds. Moreover, even a little bit is potentially toxic to a small bird. Even a single salty chip or pretzel can throw off the electrolyte and fluid balance in a bird’s tiny body. What follows is excessive thirst, dehydration, kidney failure and death. As an alternative offer a bite or two of unsalted popcorn or pretzels or a low-salt cracker instead. Garlic and Onions, provide heart benefits in people.  Nonetheless, whether fed raw or cooked, they are toxic to many animals, including birds, cats and dogs. Onions contain sulfur compounds. When chewed, they irritate the lining of a bird’s mouth, esophagus, or crop, causing ulcers. Additionally they induce rupture of red blood cells resulting in anemia. Garlic contains allicin, another chemical that can cause anemia and weakness in birds.


Three Words that don’t really go together, Danger and Gift Basket

                                      Photo by Jon Tyson

Unquestionably, a thoughtful gift can make your Valentine’s Day. But no one wants to end an otherwise perfect day in the ER with a barfing pet and a big Vet bill. To many of you pet lovers, I know “you got this” and this information may be redundant. However, these facts can benefit “The Giver of Gifts” who may be unaware of some inherent dangers in preparing a simple gift basket. Maybe you’ll prepare your gift basket differently next time, depending on the pet. Overall, there’s nothing wrong with giving the aforementioned candies, fruits and vegetables. Nonetheless, on the off chance that they don’t know, just inform the gift recipient of what’s in the basket and what you’ve learned. To get the most out of the day, It wouldn’t hurt to also include a small token treat, for the family pet. Besides this small gesture is guaranteed to earn big thanks a hug maybe a kiss. At the very least you’ll earn a lick or two from someone in the family. You can take your pick which one!

                             Gift Tag, Pet Advisory Adhesive Label                                                            



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