BIRMINGHAM, Mich. (WXYZ) - Flowers and chocolates may be perfect gifts for Valentine's Day, but not if pets get their paws on those special treats.
Dr. Cindy Houlihan runs "The Cat Practice" in Birmingham, Michigan. She says every year around February 14th, veterinary emergency hospitals see a boost in business because pets get sick on Valentine presents.
Dr. Houlihan is warning families to particularly beware of chocolate and some flowers -- that can be deadly for pets, in some cases, within a matter of a few hours.
Her veterinary practice treated a cat that ate lilies out of a Valentine's flower arrangement The pet ended up needing three days of intravenous fluid therapy, but was lucky to survive.
Lilies are toxic to cats and consuming them quickly leads to kidney failure if left untreated.
"Pets can get into things very quickly when owners are not looking," says Dr. Houlihan. "So the best advice is to prevent the emergency in the first place."
Dr. Houlihan offers these tips to keep your pets safe from some popular Valentine's Day gifts:
Avoid lilies, which can be fatal to cats. Tulips and carnations can also be toxic along with more than 100 other flowers
For a complete list go to "The Cat Practice" website . When you receive a flower bouquet, discard the silica packet since this can be toxic. Also discard rubber bands which pets can easily swallow. If you get roses, while they are one of the safest flowers, trim the thorns since they cause serious infection if your pet gets punctured.
Hide all chocolate. Dark chocolate contains methylxanthines, a caffeine-like stimulant that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, seizures and elevated heart rate. The high fat content in milk chocolate can lead to life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas. Don't let pets near candy, gum and other treats sweetened with the artificial sweetener xylitol. If ingested, it can result in a sudden drop in blood sugar that can cause depression, loss of coordination and seizures.
Don't leave half empty glasses of Champagne, wine or other alcoholic beverages left sitting out for a curious pet to lap up. Quickly clean up any spills. A little bit of alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lack of coordination, central nervous system depression, tremors, difficulty breathing, metabolic disturbances, coma and respiratory failure.
Avoid leaving candles unattended. Curious cats and playful pooches can burn themselves or cause a fire by knocking over lit candles.
Gather up tape, ribbons, bows, wrapping paper and cellophane. If swallowed, any of these can get lodged in your pet's throat or digestive tract.
Dr. Houlihan says that it is always good advice to observe pets closely and take any behavior changes seriously.
If your pet is "not acting quite right," not eating or appears lethargic, it's time to get to the veterinarian. "Pets often mask their illness," she says. "By the time they start showing symptoms, they are really sick."