Avoidable Dangers In Your Home - Part 221.02.17
If you haven’t read up on our list of avoidable, dangerous food and drink types in your home you can catch it here. In this article we’ll look at some other common household items that are potentially dangerous for your pets.
Both human and animal medications should be kept in an inaccessible cupboard – make sure you put away the bag once you’ve finished taking them or giving them to your pet. Remember that to help you medicate your animal a lot of medications are made to be palatable to your pet, which means that they will happily guzzle the whole lot if given the chance.
Bleach is dangerous if cats and dogs swallow or lick it. Do not use it undiluted in areas your pet may walk over or near.
Anti-freeze is extremely toxic and causes kidney failure. For some reason cats really do like the taste of ethylene glycol and will gladly lap it up, so keep the bottle sealed, wiped clean and inaccessible. To be safe, be sure to clean up any spills promptly and thoroughly.
Slug bait and rat poison are particularly dangerous to your pets’ health. However, all pesticides should be kept in a sealed, hard-plastic container (not in a bag, which can be chewed through), in a closed cupboard, and ideally high up in a locked shed. Be really careful where you put these out as you may end up poisoning your beloved pet instead of those pesky pests. Remember that the carcass of a dead or dying poisoned critter is also very toxic for your pet.
A safer solution is to substitute the harmful chemicals for a more natural option, to remove the danger for your pets as well as any wildlife that visits your garden.
Chemical fertilisers are very dangerous to pets and should be stored and used carefully. Organic fertilisers are far safer and will usually only result in an upset stomach if ingested. For this reason, I only use organic fertilisers in my garden, especially when I see my cats picking their way through the flowerbeds, getting soil on the paws that I know they will be licking later.
Of paramount importance is that you don’t have lilies in your house or garden if you have cats. Lilies, including the leaves, roots, flowers and pollen are all highly toxic to them and cause severe kidney failure. Cats frequently get poisoned through chewing on various parts of the plant or from getting pollen on their coat or paws, which they ingest when they groom themselves.
A lot of household and garden plants are mildly toxic to pets and may cause vomiting, diarrhoea or irritation of the mouth. Poinsettas, holly, ivy and mistletoe all fall into this category.
There are some plants that cause more serious toxicities and could cause death if ingested by your pet. These include oleander, kalanchoe, azaleas, autumn crocus, cyclamen, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, lily of the valley, dieffenbachia and sago palm.
Toys and chews
It’s best to supervise your dog or cat when giving them toys or chews, to reduce their risk of swallowing pieces that will get stuck. Puppies and young dogs are more likely to swallow objects, and certain breeds (such as English Bull Terriers and Labradors) are particularly partial to gobbling down something that may need to be surgically extracted by your vet.
Socks, tights and knickers are a few favourites for dogs to chew on (or swallow). Try not to leave any of these lying around, or there’s a chance your pet will end up in our surgical theatre.
String and wool
While dogs tend to swallow chunky things like balls and socks, cats are fond of chewing and swallowing string and wool. It sounds unlikely but is surprisingly common. These types of foreign obstructions are particularly dangerous, as they tend to ‘cheese-wire’ and cut through the intestinal wall as the intestines are trying to expel them.
Wires can cause electrical burns to the mouth and tongue or even electrocute your pet. Rabbits and rodents are often serial wire-chewers, while puppies and kittens also won’t miss the chance to gnaw on these. Keep your electrical wires out of reach, or stored behind cupboards, cabinets, etc.
If you have a dog with long back and short legs (also known as chondrodysplastic breeds), their intervertebral discs are at serious risk of prolapsing (a slipped disc). Moving up and down stairs is a big risk factor for these injuries. In fact, no dogs are designed to do stairs, and a lot of ligament and back injuries are made worse because of them. Rather put up a child gate and limit your pooch to one level of the house where possible, or at least stop them from bolting up and down the stairs multiple times a day.
This may seem silly, but jumping on and off furniture causes a lot of injuries to pets each year. This is especially true of the chondrodysplastic dog breeds and slipped discs. If you want your pet on the sofa or bed, teach them to get up only on invitation and with you supervising or assisting them. Alternatively, make them a ramp and reward them for using it rather than leaping. Also, beware of any heavy or precarious items of furniture that may fall onto your pets and cause injury or death.
For any dogs struggling with ‘arthritis’, a slippery floor (tiled or wooden) is a horrible obstacle to overcome every time they want to stand up or lie down. Their comfort and longevity would be improved by having a surface that provides better traction.
Likewise, young boisterous animals can tear ligaments and break bones on slippery floors or mats.
Windows and balconies
Cats are the usual victims of “high-rise syndrome”. In urban areas, a vet will get several cases a year where a cat has slipped out of a window or off a balcony. Do not assume they have more sense and/or balance than this; it happens more often than you’d think. Enclose your balconies and install window guards if you live on the second floor or higher.
Also be aware of any dogs with phobias (such as fireworks) or separation anxiety – they have been known to dive through windows in their panic-stricken state.
While many of the above dangers may seem obvious to seasoned pet owners, we hope that this comprehensive list helps to remind you of the serious responsibilities that come with owning a pet, and of course, helps to keep your pets safe.