Keeping Your Dog Safe

The following is a guest post by Valerie Jocums on how to keep your dog safe from everyday items. Enjoy!

Dogs are curious creatures and put just about everything in their mouths. Unfortunately, like little kids, they don’t have a sense for things that might be bad for them. As their companions and caregivers, we have a responsibility to be that filter for them. This requires diligence and planning on our part. By seriously considering the many things in our household, we can eliminate most things that are dangerous, and block our pets’ access to all the others.

One of the biggest obstacles to pet safety is ignorance. Because some things that are safe for people are not safe for dogs, you might not be aware of the dangers. Arm yourself with knowledge. After finishing this article on a few of the perhaps lesser-known dangers, talk to your vet and read anything you can find about other dangers. Combining knowledge with vigilance and a little curiosity about what might be hiding in your cupboards could save your dog.

Here are a few common things you should avoid and few other things that you might not have considered.

People Food

Growing up, our farm dog always got leftovers on her dinner. Scrapings of gravy, meat fat, and anything else on our plates that we didn’t finish always went in her dinner bowl. I cringe now when I think of it, but it was a common practice back then, especially for farm dogs. Now, we know that many of those foods are bad for dogs. Please review this great infographic about toxic foods for dogs. It can give you much more information than I have room for in this article. However, here are two other food-type items not mentioned that I want to bring to your attention:

Xylitol: This artificial sweetener is great for people, but very toxic for dogs. Found in many chewing gums, breath mints and toothpastes, it is also available in powder form for use at home. Ingestion by dogs can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar and liver failure. The weight of the dog and amount ingested will affect how dangerous it is. Make sure you know if any products you use contain it, and keep them safely in a cupboard away from your dog.

Hops: Yes, I am talking about the same hops used in making beer. Most dogs will not touch hops because they are quite bitter. However, with the increase in the home brewers, access to hops is increasing, and so is the danger. Quite often, dogs will eat the spent hops from the compost pile or the garbage. The quantity needed for poisoning is unknown due to lack of research and that some breeds of dogs are more susceptible. Err on the side of caution! Keep all hops out of reach of your dogs, including the beer!


Non-Food Items

Not everything that dogs chew are food items. They love to exercise their jaws, especially puppies who are teething. Sometimes, the chewing is the problem, other times it is the swallowing. Always provide your dog with safe chewing toys, supervise them while playing, and take the toy away when starts coming apart. If your dog does swallow something, watch for vomiting, or constipation. Either could be danger signs. When in doubt, go to the vet. Here are three specific hazards to consider:

Electrical cords: If unplugged, your only worry is replacing the cord, but if still plugged in, electrocution is likely. Death does not always occur, but it could. It could also cause electrical burns in their mouth, which don’t heal well and easily become infected. None of these options is positive. Wherever possible, move cords up out of reach of dogs, block access with baby gates or hide the cords behind furniture or under carpet. Always supervise puppies until they prove they will not chew on non-toy items.

Zinc: The most common source of zinc poisoning is swallowed pennies, but can also be zinc oxide cream, metal jewelry, nuts, bolt or galvanized metal items. Zinc poisoning, if not treated, can cause anemia, seizures, kidney and liver damage, heart problems and death. If your dog does swallow a zinc item, usually surgery is required to remove the item(s). Avoid this by keeping all metal and coins off the floor. Vacuum regularly to ensure removal of dangerous items from the carpet. Don’t use any ointment or product containing zinc on your dog’s skin. While not as dangerous as swallowing zinc, this can still cause problems.

Rocks: It is unknown why some dogs like to chew and swallow rocks, but they can be deadly for those dogs. They can cause blockages in their stomach and intestines. Because rocks are everywhere outside, and dogs play outside, this one is harder to monitor. When you first get a dog, keep them closely supervised when outside. This will give you an idea how likely they are to eat foreign objects. If they do show an inclination to swallow rocks, you will need to clean up any loose rocks from your yard, and probably stand guard every time they go out until you can break them of this habit.


Airborne Items

This category sounds harmless, but not necessarily for our dogs, especially smaller dogs who have less body mass.

Essential oils

Many people use essential oils to relax or to help with medical problems. They can have an intense aroma for humans. Can you imagine what they must be like for dogs, whose sense of smell is so much greater than ours? (The amount greater is unknown, but guessed to be 1,000 to 10,000 times greater depending up the dog.) For them, the smell must be overpowering. If your dog displays a sensitivity to your use of essential oils, either allow them the opportunity to leave the area for extended periods or stop using them altogether. If your use is for relaxation, maybe switch to a table-top fountain whose sound is said to be as relaxing.

Cleaners: Many of your household cleaners can give off dangerous fumes. If your cleaner has ammonia, chlorine, glycol ethers or formaldehyde, you may be exposing your dog to dangerous vapors that can cause asthma, vomiting, laryngeal edema, anemia or lung and liver damage. Switch to products specially labeled as non-toxic and safe for pets, or you can make your own cleaning products. For example, white vinegar mixed with water makes a great substitute for Windex.

Paint: Another one that is always surprising to people is paint. Even after paint dries, the fumes can still be there to affect your dog. You always want to 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.


Outside Dangers

One final area I want you to consider is outside of the house.

Algae: If you have a water feature in your yard, or there is a nearby pond your dog plays in, you need to be on the watch for algae. Some algae can produce toxins that are harmful or deadly to dogs. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell by looking at the algae whether it is the dangerous kind or not. Always err on the side of caution. If you see a sudden algae bloom, do not let your dog near the water. Dogs exposed to the toxic algae, can die anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours after exposure. That does not leave much room for emergency vet visits.

Wild animals: Many critters pose hazards to your dog: a deer will kick him if he gets to close; coyotes will lure him back to their pack, which will then attack, and kill him; and raccoons will bite resulting in a vet visit and possibly a dangerous infection. If you see signs of wild animals in your yard, use a repellent or trap to get rid of them.

Anti-freeze: Unfortunately, the sweet smell and taste of anti-freeze is attractive 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.

Unfortunately, just like kids, we cannot always keep our fur babies safe. They learn and grow by exploring and testing boundaries. In the process, they might get into unsafe things. If we plan and eliminate the dangers we see, we have a better chance of keeping them safe. On the chance that something does happen, know exactly where your closest emergency vet clinic is and have the contact information for the pet poison helpline handy.

About the Author: Valerie Jocums 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.


Alec Schwinghamer

Alec Schwinghamer

I love dogs as much as they love squirrels