Valentine’s Day! I know, some of you are thinking how this is a “holiday” invented by the corporations to sell cards and candy and all the things that President’s Day is not very good at marketing. I would rather get a heart-shaped box of candy over a George Washington’s head shaped box. Now, if the tradition was giving me money with each of the presidents on it you would have my attention.

Most joking aside, there really is no reason to hate Valentine’s Day. When it comes down to it you may get candy (good), flowers (pretty), and if nothing else it’s a day to celebrate the very best thing in the world: love! The whole reason you bring your pets to us is because you love them and you want to take care of them. A day all about love should certainly involve a little something about your critters.

While I personally enjoy chocolate and flowers and the half-priced Valentine’s ice cream cakes at Dairy Queen the day after- this is absolutely true, by the way- these are not great gifts for your pets. I’m going to go ahead and make a plug since I work at a vet clinic and say the best gift you can get your pet is a check-up! Baseline bloodwork, a dental, a diet consult, maybe some medications for itching or fleas or arthritis? Beats bling for the collar.

Chocolate, certain flowers, and fatty foods like ice cream are actually potentially hazardous to both cats and dogs, so do keep those away from your furry family members. If treats are a must for showing your affection, remember to factor in those extra calories when you feed your pet for the day and give them a little less of their regular meal. Special occasions at my house usually involve a little boiled chicken that both the cats and the dogs enjoy. The rabbit and goats appreciate some lettuce and small bits of carrot, which are also vacuumed up by the horses. The nice thing about giving animals treats is that they just appreciate the novelty without comparing it to that cake they had one time.

If your animals aren’t dropping their coats yet it’s only a matter of time. The lengthening days will trigger that wonderful 5thseason of the year, shedding season. Investing in a nice brush and spending some time grooming your fur-ball is a great way to let them know you love them. Getting rid of that extra fluff not only makes your pet feel better by keeping matts at bay and freeing up loose fur, it lets you look for parasites, injuries, or growths, as well as promoting healthy skin which leads to a healthy coat.

This is not my favorite way to show my critters I love them but the animals certainly seem to enjoy it: exercise. I am lazy, I’ll admit that, but I like dogs with a little spunk to them. I have taught both of my dogs to jog beside a bicycle and boy do they love their bike rides. The cats are always up for a game of chase with some bailing twine or an actual cat toy, which keeps them fit and mentally stimulated. Even the goats enjoy a game of tag around the pen. The horses, well, people will argue whether or not horses actually like working. All I can say is that mine walk into the round pen on their own, get worked a bit, and I just open the gate for them to swap out. I take that to mean they like it just fine.

Besides all these things I think that most pet owners know the look of love from their pet. When your dog leans on your leg and gazes up at you. Your cat does that slow blink, purring away, maybe making muffins with its paws. Your horse takes a long sigh into your hands. There isn’t really a way to tell our pets that we love them, we have to show them that we do and they do the same in return. It’s a nice lesson to apply to our interpersonal relationships: showing as well as telling. Real love is precious and it deserves to be shared far and wide.

So enjoy this Valentine’s Day with whoever or whatever your valentine may be. Easy on the candy.