Protecting Your Pet From Household Hazards

Each year, beloved dogs and cats are injured or die after ingesting common foods, household cleaners, medications, and other substances. Their inquisitive and playful natures also make them prone to get into other types of trouble. Consider, for example, how irresistible a dangling electrical cord can seem to a kitten or a puppy. As well, a new plant may look inviting and tasty yet be poisonous. Homeowners can help to keep their pets healthy and happy by being aware of some dangerous items and situations.

The Kitchen

Dogs and cats are often keen to find out what's cooking in the kitchen. Dogs may put their paws up on countertops and hot stove elements and cats can easily jump up on both surfaces. In addition to the risk of being burned, pets may cut themselves on sharp utensils. The area under the kitchen sink is often the place where people store soaps and cleaners. For your health and the health of your pets, it's a good idea to keep them out of the kitchen. If you do not have a door to your kitchen, consider installing a baby gate and train pets to stay out of the area.

Another danger in the kitchen is food. It is an understandable assumption that what is good for us should be good for our pets but, unfortunately, cats and dogs can become ill or die as a result of being fed 'people food'. The following are some common foods that are harmful to pets: avocados, onions, chocolate, alcoholic beverages, coffee, salt, macadamia nuts and hops (used in home beer brewing). These greens are poisonous to both humans and pets: rhubarb leaves, tomato leaves and stems and potato leaves and stems. Fish and poultry bones are prone to splintering, which may mean a trip to the veterinarian's office to have them removed.

Chewing Hazards

Dogs and kittens like to chew and they are not particularly fussy about whether they are chewing on a bone or on your favourite pair of shoes! In fact, anything may be of interest to them including furniture, remote controls and sharp objects such as nails, pins, and bottle caps. People who have pets often find that they must become meticulous housekeepers; anything that falls to the floor or is left sitting out can become fair game to our furry friends. Aside from keeping sharp objects stored safely, encourage your pets to chew on appropriate toys.

Electrical Cords

An electrical cord can deliver a fatal shock to a pet that has chewed through the cord's protective covering. An effective way to prevent this possibility is to run cords through hard plastic tubing (PCV pipes).

Medication

Although our dogs and cats can seem almost human to us at times, they are quite different in terms of size and body chemistry. As a result, medications intended for human consumption can be very harmful to our pets. If you have small children, beware that they may someday wish to play doctor on the family dog or cat. Make sure your children know that they cannot give the animal any aspirin, cough syrup or other medication.

All medications, even mild painkillers such as aspirin and Tylenol, can be harmful to pets and should be stored safely out of reach. Remember that some lotions also contain medication. For example, a salve for a rash may be safe when applied topically but may be toxic when eaten. It doesn't take long for a dog's sharp teeth to chew through a plastic bottle. It takes even less time for a pet to snatch up a pill left sitting out on a table for a few moments. A closed medicine cabinet high up on a wall is the safest location for medications.

Flea Collars

The chemicals in flea collars can be as toxic to fleas as they are to your pets and to you! Most manufacturers recommend that pets do not wear these collars for extended periods and that owners wash their hands after handling them. Your veterinarian can do a thorough examination and likely recommend a safer treatment. Keep in mind that if your pet is scratching the culprit is not necessarily fleas. Your pet's skin may be dry from a shampoo or the weather. If you or your veterinarian discover fleas, it is likely that they are also living in your carpets. A simple treatment is to sprinkle a generous amount of salt on the carpet and then vacuum after several hours.

Household cleaners

Inhaling the fumes and/or consuming cleaners can be harmful or deadly to your pet. Cleaners for ovens, tile and toilets contain corrosive chemicals and are particularly dangerous. If a pet drinks from a toilet bowl containing cleaner, it can receive painful burns to the mouth, tongue and esophagus. Once the chemicals are digested, they can cause coma, convulsions and death. Switching to environmentally friendly cleaners is one solution. Instead of toxic oven cleaner, mix together equal parts salt and baking soda with a small amount of water to create a paste. Spread the mixture inside your stove and let it sit for a few hours then scrub off with a stiff brush. For toilets and tile, try borax and soap. Borax is not completely safe for pets so be sure to keep pets out of the bathroom during cleaning.

Just as with children, it is wise to keep all cleaners out of reach of your pet. If you are short on shelf space and must store cleaners inside low cabinets, install a childproof latch. These latches are designed to make it difficult to open without a strong pull thereby preventing toddlers and pets from opening doors.

Poisonous Plants

Pets, particularly puppies and kittens, like to play with and nibble on most anything including plants. The following are some common species that are poisonous to pets: dieffenbachia, philodendron, caladium, English ivy, iris, amaryllis, daffodil and tulip (especially the bulbs), foxglove, lily of the valley, oleander, monkshood and larkspur. This list is not complete and you may wish to check with your veterinarian regarding your houseplants.

Remember that despite their keen sense of smell, sharp instincts and willingness to eat almost anything (in the case of dogs), our homes present many hazards to pets. Take a moment to consider your home from your pet's perspective and remove the dangerous temptations. Your pet will thank you with love and affection for years to come.

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