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Caution to pet owners

Published February 09. 2012 05:01PM

With Valentine's Day approaching and Easter just around the corner, the The Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association reminds us that items so popular to humans this time of year chocolate, flowers and cocktails are not good and can become health hazards for our pets.

Cat owners are reminded that all species of lily are potentially fatal to our feline friends and households with cats should be on the alert. If a cat does ingest the lily, the symptoms can include stomach upset, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Stems with thorns as well as flowers, including the rose, can also prove hazardous to dogs or other pets. If a pet bites into or swallows a stem with thorns, there is an increased risk for a puncture, which can lead to serious infections.

Since chocolate is plentiful in so many households for Valentine's Day, pet owners are reminded that this popular human treat can be toxic to dogs and cats. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic, but also be aware that dark, milk, semi-sweet and baker's chocolates all can cause adverse reactions.

Different chocolates affects our pets in multiple ways. The darker varieties contain caffeine-like stimulants that cause gastrointestinal, neurologic, and cardiac functions that can cause vomiting/diarrhea, hyperactivity, seizures and elevated heart rate. High fat in lighter chocolates can cause life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas.

Cocktails pose a threat to pets, especially the smaller sizes. Even a small amount of alcohol stolen from a low-sitting glass or lapped off the floor after a spill can impact pets in a dramatic way. The problems can include vomiting/diarrhea, lack of coordination, central nervous system depression, tremors, difficulty breathing, and even coma.

Pet owners should never leave a room with lighted candles unattended. Also, make sure you pick up and put away all wrapping paper and bows from gifts since these can be ingested.

If a problem is detected, pet owners can call the state's Pet Poison Helpline at (800) 213-6680.

Just like humans, dental health is also important to your pet. The Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association reminds us that February is National Pet Dental Health Month and that our animal friends can also experience plaque and bacteria build-up in their mouths.

Oral disease is the most frequently diagnosed health problem in dogs and cats and treatment for it can include costly x-rays and tooth extraction. Smaller dogs are especially susceptible.

If untreated, periodontal disease can lead to kidney disease and even diabetes and cancer. When dealing with animal dental hygiene, remember these tips:

• Human toothpaste can irritate your animal's stomach.

• Never use fluoride on a puppy six months or younger.

• Chew toys can help remove soft tarter and strengthen teeth.

Pet owners should be aware that the cost of dental disease treatments far exceed the cost of a toothbrush and toothpaste. For tips on how to brush your animal's teeth, visit

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