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Have a Pet-Friendly Valentine’s Day

“Love me, love my pet,” is the new Valentine rule of paw. If you really want to please your partner this Valentine's Day, as well as your pet, buy chew toys and catnip instead of chocolate.

You can also try acting and reacting to your significant other more like your dog does. I'm not saying you should wag your tail, but some years ago, the American Kennel Club (AKC) conducted a survey of dog owners. Of the women surveyed, almost 90 percent wish their boyfriend or husband was more like their dog--enjoyed cuddling on the couch, for example. On the other side of the equation, men wished their wives and girlfriends were in a good mood all the time like their dogs, and didn't get mad when they watched sports.

One way to get your pet in on the Valentine's joy is to have him deliver a gift to your significant other. Tie a small package to the collar, for example, or maybe your genius-dog can fetch the bouquet for a happy surprise. Of course, be sure that any gift you ask your dog or cat to carry is safe for pets, and keep anything problematic out of paw-reach.

It's always fun to include our furry loves in the celebration along with our human loved ones. It's important, of course, to make sure our dogs are safe. Pet safety issues for Christmas are similar to those for Valentine's Day but it's always good to refresh our watch list.

TOXIC PLANTS: Be VERY careful of the types of Valentine's flowers and plants that are within paw-reach. Roses aren't toxic, but the thorns can cause problems. And destroying a bouquet won't make points with your love. Even worse, some plants are dangerous. In particular, the lily can kill dogs and cats, causing kidney failure. Cats don't even have to eat them--just drink from water in the container, or lick their claws after clawing the plant.

RIBBONS & STRING: The top danger for cats is swallowed ribbon/string type decorations associated with Valentine's gifts. Oh, the packaging looks glorious and it may delight your playful cat just as much as it does you.
Cats play with any moving object, and while supervised play is fine, when swallowed, the string item can cut internal organs and/or create a blockage. Once the cat starts swallowing, she can't stop...to make the tickle go away, she keeps gulping until it's all inside. It may take a day or so before you even notice a problem, when the ribbon or string clog up the "plumbing."

Again, if you see the cat swallow the string, immediately call the veterinarian. Also, if you see string/ribbon hanging outside the mouth OR the anus, DO NOT PULL! The other end of the string may be caught on the inside, so tugging could cut the organs. Often, when cats swallow thread, a needle may be on one end, and the thread may wrap around the base of the cat's tongue. The movement of the intestines (peristalsis, sort of like an inch worm) can make the tissue gather like fabric on the thread. A vet visit is vital. And of course, to prevent, just supervise ribbon play and dispose of dangerous items.

PACKAGING: Cats love bags, right? And some cats adore licking plastic, which can be a BIG concern. Oftentimes, the plastic is a petroleum product derivative of some kind, and maybe that's why cats like the flavor. Ingestion is a problem with both dogs and cats, so be sure to properly dispose of dangerous packing materials.
While bags (not plastic!) can be great fun for cats, be very careful of those bags with handles. A hiding cat that darts out of the bag can get the handle caught around his neck. That's a potential choking hazard at worst, and creates terror when the cat runs and the bag "chases" the kitty.

CHOCOLATE: The top danger at Valentine's for dogs is chocolate--in particular the dark chocolate and truffles-type candy. Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, and both can speed up the heart rate and in high enough concentrations, cause vomiting, diarrhea or even death. It takes about two pounds of milk chocolate to poison a 7 pound pet.

Baker's chocolate has 10 times as much theobromine, so that 7 pound pet could get sick from eating only 2 ounces. Dark chocolate has a higher concentration, so it is the more dangerous. Dogs are poisoned more often (cats don't have a sweet tooth like dogs and people!), and if you see a dog lick the frosting off the cake or break into the Valentine's truffles, induce vomiting immediately and then get vet care.

The best way to make dogs vomit is to first feed a small meal (that dilutes the poison and also makes it easier to induce vomiting). Then give 3% hydrogen peroxide (about 1-2 teaspoons/10 pounds of pet) to make him vomit. Use a turkey baster or squirt gun if you don't have a syringe applicator.

STRANGER DANGER: Another issue around Valentine's Day for both cats and dogs is something I call 'STRANGER DANGER.' When a pet isn't familiar with the new guy or gal you're dating, that can put the pet's tail in a twist. For some pets, that simply means they hide. Others, though, can become fearful and turn aggressive toward the new person. And the fear could prompt the pet to try and escape —which can result in a lost pet or hit by car or any number of things. The best prevention is to slowly introduce pets to strangers to ensure there's a future love connection.

Our cats and dogs are part of the family. Here's hoping your furry wonders enjoy their Valentine's Day celebration.

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