By The Farmer's Dog | February 14, 2017

This guest post was contributed by Dr. Alex Schechter from Off-Leash Veterinary Care in New York. 

This Valentine’s Day, Off Leash Vets wants to make sure you enjoy that romantic dinner for two and keep your furry Valentine safe. To keep our clients well prepared, we put our heads together and came up with the five most common pet toxicities we’ve seen in emergency rooms. These might take even the most informed pet parents by surprise.


Don’t leave that heart-shaped box of chocolates lying out on the table.  Chocolate contains two substances that are toxic to pets: theobromine and caffeine. The degree of toxicity depends not only on the amount of chocolate ingested but also the type.  Baking cocoa, with its high cocoa percentage, is the most toxic, followed by dark chocolate.  While milk chocolate is less toxic, it can still be dangerous in large quantities.  Symptoms of consumption vary and range from gastrointestinal upset to abnormal heart rhythms.

Gum, Candy, Mints

Certain sugar-free candy and gum brands contain a synthetic sugar called xylitol. This artificial sweetener stimulates your pet’s pancreas to release insulin, a hormone that lowers blood sugar, resulting in severe hypoglycemia.  Extreme drops in blood sugar can cause immediate weakness, tremors, and seizures with potential long- term effects on the liver.  Make sure to keep all xylitol mints in closed pockets or drawers, and out of your pet’s reach.  

Grapes and Raisins

That fancy edible arrangement could have serious side effects if it gets into the wrong paws. Grapes and raisins can have a disastrous effect on the kidneys. Ingestion of even small amount can cause acute renal failure, leading to vomiting, lethargy, and urination abnormalities.  So take those bowls of trail mix off your side-tables, and watch your pets around the fruit salad.  

Onions and Garlic

For breath reasons, we hope neither of these ingredients is a key player in your Valentine’s Day dinner, but we know both are present in many savory dinner dishes. Onions in high doses can lead to the destruction of your pet’s red blood cells, resulting in life threatening anemia. Clinical signs include pale or white gums, red tinged urine, lethargy, and gastrointestinal distress (like vomiting and diarrhea).  Keep your pet away from the kitchen when cooking for your beau, and make sure to never leave these ingredients unattended on the counter.

Chicken bones

We know it’s hard to resist that adorable face begging for the delicious smelling chicken dinner you just cooked.  While chicken isn’t toxic, you could end up spending your Valentine’s night in the emergency room if your dog swallows a bone. Bones are digestible if they reach the stomach, but often times they can get trapped in the esophagus on the way down leading to gagging, excessive drooling, and regurgitation.  This ultimately will require an emergency endoscopy procedure to dislodge the bone. Additionally, even if they reach the stomach, bones can still cause vomiting and diarrhea.

The best way to show your dogs you love them is by keeping them safe. If you are ever concerned or have questions about a potential pet toxicity, give your vet a call.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Images: @ps.ny