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Have a Pet-Safe Valentine's: Toxic vs. Safe Flowers and Gifts

Updated: Feb 13

Valentine's Day is all about love, affection, and giving thoughtful presents. As we enjoy picking out and receiving gifts, it's also important to think about the safety of our pets during this love-filled holiday.

A lot of the typical Valentine's gifts, like certain flowers and chocolates, can actually be dangerous for our pets. To make sure everyone has happy and safe Valentine's Day, let's look into which popular gifts to steer clear of and what safe options we can choose instead.

Flowers, Plants, and Bouquets

Flower arrangements are some of the most popular Valentine’s Day gifts - and for good reason! They’re beautiful, remind us of spring coming after a chilly winter, and often smell wonderful. However, many flowers (and greenery/filler) can be toxic to our furry family members: so, for flower arrangements that are safe around cats and dogs, focusing on non-toxic options is crucial. 

Here are flowers you can confidently include in arrangements without worrying about the safety of your cat and dog family members:

Cat and Dog-Safe Flowers for Arrangements:

  • Roses: A classic and safe choice for any bouquet. Be sure to remove any thorns to prevent injuries.

  • Gerbera Daisies: These bright and cheerful flowers add a pop of color and are safe for cats.

  • Snapdragons: Tall and elegant, snapdragons can add height and variety to any arrangement without posing a risk to cats.

  • Orchids: Exotic and beautiful, many orchids are safe for cats and dogs and can bring an elegant touch to your floral designs. However, it's essential to ensure the specific variety of orchid is non-toxic, as there are many species.

  • Freesia: Known for their sweet fragrance and a variety of colors, freesias are a safe and attractive choice for bouquets.

  • Sunflowers: Bold and vibrant, sunflowers are non-toxic to cats and dogs and can make a statement in any arrangement.

  • Lisianthus: With their rose-like appearance, lisianthus flowers can add sophistication and are safe for cats and dogs.

Flowers to Avoid in Arrangements for Cat and Dog Owners:

  • Lilies (Lilium spp. and Hemerocallis spp.): ALL parts (pollen, stem, leaves, flowers) of all true lilies are extremely toxic to cats, including Asiatic, Stargazer, Easter, and Tiger lilies, among others. Don’t change it: keep all lilies OUT of your pet-friendly home.

  • Tulips: Tulips contain compounds that can be toxic to cats, and are a member of the lily family.

  • Sago Palm: While not a flower, it's often used in arrangements and is highly toxic, causing liver failure and potentially death.

  • Carnations: Can cause gastrointestinal upset, including vomiting and diarrhea.

  • Chrysanthemums: Contains pyrethrins, which can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and incoordination.

  • Amaryllis: Including Belladonna, Saint Joseph lilies, and other Amaryllis spp., can cause vomiting, depression, diarrhea, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, anorexia, and tremors.

  • Oleander: Even in small amounts, oleander can be very toxic, causing severe symptoms, including gastrointestinal tract irritation, abnormal heart function, hypothermia, and even death.

  • Calla Lily: Contains insoluble calcium oxalates causing oral irritation, pain, and swelling of mouth, tongue, and lips, excessive drooling, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing.

Pet Safe Greenery and Filler 

When it comes to creating floral arrangements that are safe for homes with cats, choosing the right greenery and fillers is just as important as selecting safe flowers. Here’s a list of cat-safe options you can use to add texture and variety to your bouquets, along with common fillers to avoid due to their toxicity to cats and/or dogs.

Pet-Safe Greenery and Fillers:

  • Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila spp.): While traditionally considered potentially toxic, recent ASPCA guidelines have listed it as non-toxic to cats and dogs. However, it's always best to use it sparingly or avoid it all together. If it does end up in your home, be sure to monitor your pets, as it can sometimes cause mild gastrointestinal upset if ingested in large quantities.

  • Wax Flower (Chamelaucium uncinatum): Delicate and aromatic, wax flowers are safe for cats and dogs and add a lovely touch to any arrangement.

  • Statice (Limonium spp.): Known for its papery texture, statice comes in various colors and is nontoxic for cats and dogs, making it a great choice for adding depth to bouquets.

  • Stock: Stock flowers (Matthiola incana) are not-toxic to cats, according to the ASPCA. They're generally safe for homes with pets, but it's wise to prevent ingestion to avoid possible stomach upset.

  • Ferns: Certain ferns, such as Leatherleaf ferns (commonly used in floral arrangements for their durability and appearance), Boston ferns (Nephrolepis exaltata) and Maidenhair ferns (Adiantum), are safe for cats and dogs and can provide a lush, green backdrop. However, be cautious as some ferns like Asparagus fern are toxic.

Fillers to Avoid:

  • Ferns (Asparagus, Plumosa, Lace): While some ferns are safe, others like Asparagus ferns are toxic to pets and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. If you aren’t sure, leave them out.

  • Ruscus (Ruscus aculeatus): Also known as butcher’s broom, ruscus doesn't appear in the ASPCA's list, but other sources do consider it toxic to cats and dogs.

  • Philodendron: Often used for its lush, green look, Philodendron is toxic and can cause oral irritation, pain, swelling, and vomiting.

  • Ivy (Hedera spp.): Commonly used in arrangements, ivy is toxic to cats and dogs, causing vomiting, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, and diarrhea.

  • Eucalyptus: Fresh eucalyptus is toxic to both cats and dogs if ingested. While dried eucalyptus may have reduced toxicity due to the drying process lessening the essential oil content, we recommend keeping eucalyptus (even dried) away from pets to avoid potential risks.

When incorporating greenery and fillers into your floral arrangements, always prioritize the safety of your pets. Opting for pet-safe options ensures that your decorative efforts bring beauty into your home without compromising the well-being of your feline companions. 

If you have questions about the safety of a specific plant or flower, consult with a veterinarian or refer to reliable resources such as the ASPCA's database of toxic and non-toxic plants. And as they saying goes: when in doubt, leave it out.

How Can I Make Sure My Bouquet is Pet-Safe? 

Finding 100% safe flower arrangements for homes with pets, especially cats and dogs, takes a bit of diligence and sometimes some creativity (and/or communication). Here are some tips to ensure that your floral decorations are safe and enjoyable for everyone in your household:

1. Educate Yourself on Non-Toxic and Toxic Plants

  • Familiarize yourself with lists of toxic and non-toxic plants and flowers for pets, available through reputable sources like the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).

  • Keep a list of safe flowers and greenery handy for when you’re shopping or ordering bouquets.

2. Consult with Your Florist

  • Discuss your need for pet-safe arrangements with your florist. A knowledgeable florist should be able to recommend and create beautiful arrangements using only non-toxic flowers and plants, but always cross-reference with what you know - and ask questions (or leave that flower/plant out), if there are any discrepancies.

  • Clearly state that you're looking for pet-safe options when ordering online or in-person.

3. Opt for Pet-Safe Flowers

  • Choose flowers known to be safe for cats and dogs, such as roses (thornless), gerbera daisies, snapdragons, and orchids.

  • Avoid lilies, tulips, and chrysanthemums, and others that are toxic to pets.

4. Be Cautious with Greenery and Fillers

  • Use safe fillers like baby's breath (in moderation), wax flowers, or ferns that are known to be non-toxic (e.g., Boston ferns).

  • Avoid fillers like ferns that are toxic to pets (e.g., Asparagus fern).

5. Consider Artificial Flowers

  • For complete peace of mind, consider high-quality artificial flowers. They can be just as beautiful as real ones and are free from the risks associated with live plants.

  • Ensure the artificial plants don’t have small, detachable parts that could be ingested by pets.

6. DIY Your Arrangements

  • Create your own flower arrangements by purchasing individual stems of known safe flowers and greenery.

  • This allows you full control over what goes into your bouquet, ensuring safety for your pets.

7. Regularly Check for Stray Leaves or Petals

  • Even non-toxic plants can cause gastrointestinal upset if ingested in large amounts. Regularly check the area around the arrangement for stray leaves or petals that pets could chew on.

8. Placement is Key

  • Place flower arrangements out of reach of pets. Even non-toxic flowers can cause stomach upset if ingested, and water from the vase may contain bacteria or chemicals harmful to pets.

9. Monitor Your Pets

  • Keep an eye on your pets to ensure they’re not nibbling on the plants or showing any interest in them. If they are, it might be best to remove the plants entirely.

10. Emergency Preparedness

  • Have the number for your veterinarian and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) handy in case of an accidental ingestion. Knowing the steps to take in an emergency can make all the difference.

11. Let Wilting Bouquets Go 

  • Often, the more dried the plant, the more concentrated any toxins there may be. So as soon as the flowers or leaves start looking dried, it’s time for them to go. 

12. Don’t Overlook Leaves and Stems 

  • In some cases, the stems and leaves are usually more toxic than the actual flower. So if you see your pet chewing, don’t assume things are okay, as long as it’s not the actual flower petals. 

By following these tips, you can enjoy the beauty and ambiance that flower arrangements bring to your (or a loved one’s) home without compromising the safety of any cats or dogs living there.

Common Sense Reminders About Flowers in Your Home 

It's important to note that while certain plants are generally considered non-toxic to pets, individual animals might still have sensitivities or allergic reactions to them. Additionally, the toxicity of plants can sometimes be a complex topic, with new research and data emerging over time that could change the status of certain plants.

For the most accurate and up-to-date information on plant toxicity for pets, we recommend consulting with a veterinarian or referencing resources from reputable organizations such as the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) or Pet Poison Helpline. These sources maintain comprehensive lists of toxic and non-toxic plants and are regularly updated to reflect current knowledge.

Remember: you are ultimately in charge of caring for your pets and making decisions that will support them.

If you have specific plants or flowers in mind, it's always safest to double-check their most-current safety status for your pets before bringing them into your home.

Other Valentine's Gifts to Avoid

  • Chocolate: It's widely known that chocolate is toxic to both dogs and cats. Theobromine, found in chocolate, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and seizures.

  • Xylitol: This sugar substitute found in sugar-free candies, gum, and baked goods can cause a rapid insulin release, leading to hypoglycemia, seizures, liver failure, or even death in pets.

  • Alcohol and Marijuana: Even small amounts of alcohol or marijuana, whether in drinks or food products, can be dangerous to pets, causing vomiting, diarrhea, central nervous system depression, problems with coordination, difficulty breathing, coma, or even death.

Safe Valentine's Day Gifts for Pets

If you want to include your pet in the Valentine's Day celebrations, consider these safe and pet-friendly gift ideas:

  • Pet-Safe Treats: Look for treats made specifically for pets, avoiding those with xylitol, chocolate, or any harmful ingredients.

  • New Toys: A new toy can provide entertainment and mental stimulation for your pet.

  • Quality Time: Sometimes, the best gift is your time. A long walk, extra playtime, or a cozy cuddle session can make Valentine's Day special for your pet.

Happy Valentine’s Day, to You and Your Furry Family Members

Valentine's Day is a wonderful opportunity to show love to all the special beings in your life, including your pets. By choosing pet-safe flowers and gifts, you can ensure that your celebration is joyful and safe for everyone involved. 

Remember, if you suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, contact your veterinarian or an emergency pet poison helpline (like this one from the ASPCA) immediately.

Here's to a love-filled and pet-safe Valentine's Day! 🐾🩵

Additional Tips for Safely Celebrating Valentine’s Day with Pets

General Safety Tips

  • Treats Can Be Toxic: Remember, chocolate is a popular Valentine's gift and many people indulge in it, but is toxic to both dogs and cats. Keep chocolates, champagne, alcohol, and marijuana out of pets' reach.

  • Watch Out for Wrappers and Ribbons: Pets, especially cats, may be tempted to play with or ingest ribbons and wrapping materials, which can lead to intestinal blockages.

  • Secure Floral Arrangements: If you receive a bouquet, ensure it's placed where pets can't reach it, even if it's pet-safe. Pets might still knock over vases, leading to potential injuries from broken glass.

  • Pet-Friendly Decor: If decorating for Valentine's Day, ensure all decorations are safe and non-toxic to pets. Avoid small, ingestible decorations that pets could choke on.

  • Quiet Space: Holidays can be stressful for pets, especially with loud noises or unfamiliar guests. Provide a quiet, comfortable space where your pet can retreat if they feel overwhelmed.

Emergency Preparedness

  • Know the Signs of Toxicity: Familiarize yourself with the signs of poisoning in pets, which can include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and more severe symptoms depending on the toxin.

  • Have Emergency Contacts Ready: Keep the number for your veterinarian and the nearest emergency vet clinic handy, as well as the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) number (888-426-4435 in the U.S.) for quick reference in case of an emergency.

Celebrating Valentine's Day with flowers and gifts can still be enjoyable and meaningful while ensuring the safety and well-being of your pets. Follow these tips above and enjoy your holiday!

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