Americans love their pets. In fact, 57% of American households have a dog or a cat. More telling, 90% of pet owners consider their pets as part of their family. If this is how you feel about your pet (and I certainly do), you want to keep them safe and healthy. You worry about what you feed them, you take them to the vet regularly, and you make sure they get plenty of exercise and companionship. Many pets even have their own health insurance.
With all this family care, many pet owners forget dogs (and other animals) are very different from humans. Things that are safe for people can be bad, or even deadly, for dogs. In 2013, the ASCPA’s Poison help line handled nearly 180,000 possible cases of pet poisoning. If you want to continue keeping your pet safe, arm yourself with knowledge. Here is my list of different hazards that you might not have considered, sorted by location in your house.
Medications, even veterinarian prescribed ones, can be dangerous to dogs, many because dogs will not take just one. If they grab the bottle or box, they will probably swallow all of them. Unfortunately, some human medications are dangerous in just small doses, especially to smaller dogs. If you drop a pill on the floor, always make sure you find and pick it up; otherwise, your dog will probably do it for you. Here are the four most commonly swallowed medications that are life threatening for your pooch.
- NSAIDs (Advil®, Aleve® and Motrin®) cause stomach and intestinal ulcers and possibly kidney failure.
- Acetaminophen causes dry eye in small doses and liver failure in larger quantities.
- Anti-depressants cause neurological problems in dogs, including sedation, incoordination, agitation, tremors and seizures.
- ADD/ADHD medications contain stimulants such as amphetamines. When ingested by dogs, even in small doses, they cause tremors, seizures, elevated temperatures and heart problems. All of which could lead to death.
The problem with cleaning products is that often they are stored in a low cupboard, sometimes by the garbage under the kitchen sink. Ingestion by pets can be accidental as they are getting to the garbage can. However, most of these products don’t have to be ingested to cause problems for dogs, for some just the fumes are potentially harmful and many are caustic to the skin. Always use household cleaners labelled non-toxic and safe for pets, and avoid these two categories whenever possible:
- Fabric Softener Sheets use chemicals that cause gastrointestinal irritation, ulceration, pulmonary edema, and kidney failure. Never use these to freshen up your dog bed or let them chew on the used ones.
- Drain cleaner, lime removal cleaners, and bleach use chemicals that are caustic not only to the skin, but also to mucus membranes and to the gastrointestinal tract. This is also a category where just the fumes are harmful.
All those products and tools to keep your yard beautiful are stored here. Many people have recognized the dangers of lawn and garden chemicals, and have switched to natural alternatives. However, here are three items that you might think safe, but are actually dangerous for your dog.
- Blood meal / bone meal fertilizers smell particularly good to dogs, but can be harmful. If they eat large quantities, the meal products can form a solid mass in the stomach. This blocks the gastrointestinal tract and causes pancreatitis.
- Cocoa mulch uses the shells of the cocoa bean. Like chocolate, the mulch contains the chemicals theobromine and caffeine that are dangerous to dogs. Moreover, like most mulches, this one also can contain pesticides and mold which are harmful. While the mulch smells a little sweet and appeals to dogs, most dogs will probably not eat enough to be a danger, but why take a chance? Use a substitute.
- Organophosphates-based insecticides are a special class used especially in caring for roses. Even small amounts of these can be fatal to dogs. If you love your roses, make sure you know if the products you use contain these dangerous compounds. If you cannot find substitutes, keep them out of reach of your dog, and possibly warn your neighbors with dogs when you use them.
One final note on this category. If your dog plays or explores in neighboring yards, you should check with the owners about the lawn care products they use. Also, check their yards for poisonous plants. Unfortunately, the neighbors’ yards may not be as pet friendly as yours. Who knows, you might just be able to save their pets as well as your own.
It isn’t surprising that the garage is not a pet-friendly place. After all, things like rat poison and gasoline are often stored here. I have four other items often found in the garage that you might not have considered dangerous.
- Gorilla Glue is not like the paste glue your kids use. Gorilla glue expands when used and if a dog ingests it, the glue will expand and harden into a mass in the dog’s stomach. This causes irritation and blockage, possibly leading to death. Usually, surgery is required to remove the mass.
- Paint is generally not dangerous when being stored, but I actually want to warn about paint when you are using it. Paint fumes can be very harmful to all pets, and they can linger in the home for a while. Always use a no VOC (volatile organic compound) paint, and if possible, use a service that can paint for you in one day. You can get your dog out of the house for the worst of the painting and when you arrive home, most of the fumes will have dissipated.
- De-icing salts are irritants to pets’ paws, but the real danger is when they lick the salts off their paws. The chemicals in the ice melt cause seizures and possibly death. If you suspect use of de-icing salts where your dog has walked, you should thoroughly clean and dry your dog’s paws and fur to make sure all salts are removed.
- Anti-freeze smells and tastes sweet to dogs. Drinking anti-freeze can kill them. There are two types of anti-freeze: ones with ethylene glycol, which is the most deadly kind; and ones with propylene glycol that are supposedly safe but have proven dangerous in high doses. Either one is going to be bad for your dog. Always store it up high, out of reach of kids or dogs. If your car leaks, make sure your dog does not wander through the puddle, and if he does, make sure you clean his fur thoroughly. You do not want him to ingest the anti-freeze when he licks his feet or fur.
Now that you have finished this article, I recommend you also review the ASPCA’s list of poisonous plants and this list of people food that is poisonous to dogs. Then, take a critical look at your household for all the dog-hazardous items, eliminate what you can, and store all others in places your dog cannot reach. For the unthinkable, when an accident does happen, make sure you know where your closest emergency vet is located, and keep the contact information for the Pet Poison Helpline handy.
I want to leave you with a couple of additional fun facts about pet ownership in the United States. Did you know that 45% of dogs sleep in their owner’s bed? Or, that 33% of dog owners have their pet’s picture displayed in their home, and 27% have taken their dog to a professional photographer? I actually am guilty of all three. I use photos of my Australian Shepherd all around my house and as surprise notes for my fiancé.
Yes, we love our pets, and this is a great thing. Keep them safe!
About the author: Valerie, originally a computer programmer, is just starting her new career as a writer. She loves the sun, her Australian Shepherd dog, and her fiancé George. When she isn’t mountain biking, practicing her public speaking skills, or reading, she is writing about everything she has learned.
Follow her on twitter: @vkjocums