As a pet owner, you want to keep your furry friend safe and healthy, but unfortunately your pets’ curious nature sometimes can get them into trouble. While many home hazards are fairly obvious, and similar to those for a small child – there’s also many common domestic items that are specifically dangerous to our pets. Whether it's food, pharmaceuticals, or chemicals, it’s important to take careful steps to prevent accidents and keep your pets safe indoors at home.
Any small items that fall on the floor can easily be swallowed by a curious pet -including coins, buttons, small children’s toys, medicine bottles, jewellery, nails and screws. If your dog or cat tries to eat a small toy or household item, it could get lodged in their throat or form an intestinal blockage if the item is too large to pass through the bowels.
In general, avoid leaving small items around that could potentially be a choking hazard for your pet. Install child-proof latches on cabinets and ensuring items, such as batteries, cellophane, string, glow-in-the-dark jewellery and other hazards are kept safely stored out-of-reach.
While electrical cords are especially tempting to chew on for puppies, rabbits and pet birds, even an adult dog or cat could find them of interest for a nibble. To protect your pets from electrical hazards, follow these tips:
- Don’t leave cords laying around - always make sure you tuck away all loose cords and use protective covers.
- Do not leave charging cords plugged in (and especially hanging down and accessible) when not in use.
- Do not allow pets to curl up for a nap behind warm computer equipment, clothes dryer or other electrical items.
- Unplug unnecessary electronics when you’re not using them and before leaving pets at home.
- Invest in the best - don’t skimp when buying power cords, extension cords, or anything else that you use for your electronics, as cheaper cords are much more likely to create sparks or overheat and possibly shock nearby animals.
- Make sure that all your sockets are in proper working order, with no loose parts so you can be sure that your pet can’t get anywhere near the insides of the socket.
Home improvements & cleaning hazards
Almost all cleaning products, even all natural ones, contain chemicals that may be harmful to pets. For example, products such as paints, cleaning detergents, bleach, antifreeze, pine oil, liquid potpourri, polyurethane glue, mineral spirits and solvents can be especially toxic to pets, causing severe irritation or chemical burns.
The key to using these products safely is to carefully read and follow label directions for proper use and storage. Make sure these toxic items are kept securely behind locked cabinets.
Ensure pets don’t have easy access to basements, garages or garden/workshop sheds, where they may be in danger of falling items or toxic chemicals. Also, be cautious of physical hazards, including nails, staples, insulation, blades and power tools. It is a good idea to confine your pet to a designated pet-friendly room during home improvement projects.
Fireplace & heaters
During the winter, our heaters and fireplaces are working overtime, so we need to be extra vigilant with our pets around heat sources to keep them safe. Follow our safety tips below:
- Fireplaces need a fireguard screen - tall and wide enough to keep your pet from jumping over or squeezing around it.
- A regular fireplace should have adequate vents to prevent inhaling smoke or carcinogens.
- Make sure the damper is adjusted properly on gas heaters to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Make sure your pets don’t get too close to any heat source to avoid accidental burns, i.e. fireplaces or heaters.
- Don’t play near the fireplace or heater with your pet – accidents can happen.
- Birds are very sensitive and should be kept in another room - far away from the heat source.
All medicines should be tightly closed and stored securely and away from pets. Medications for human medical conditions can make pets very sick. Never give your pet any medication, including over-the-counter medications, unless specifically directed by your veterinarian.
Soaps and other toiletry items
Bath and hand soaps, toothpaste and sunscreens should also be kept away from your pets. They can cause stomach upset, vomiting or diarrhoea. Also, keep toilet lids closed to prevent your pets from consuming treated toilet bowl water that could irritate their digestive system.
Keep washing machine and tumble dryers closed as your pet may climb in and become trapped. Always check the inside of the machine is clear before putting a load on.
The kitchen is full of hazards for our pets, so it’s important to follow safety precautions to prevent accidents. For instance, cats & dogs with a tendency to jump on counters, are in serious danger of getting burnt by hot stovetops. The risk is even greater with electric stovetops that can remain hot even after you’ve turned it off and walked away. Using back burners when cooking (whenever possible) and providing a barrier, such as a stove guard can help prevent injuries.
Other kitchen safety precautions include not leaving food, knives, cooking or eating utensils unattended on counters. Replace your kitchen sponges frequently and keep them out of reach from your pets, as they contain harmful cleaning chemicals, germs and bacteria. As a rule, try to keep the kitchen a ‘pet-free zone’ if possible and always place them either outside or in another room when cooking and cleaning the oven. These cleaning fumes, particularly with self-cleaning ovens, are particularly harmful to pets.
A special note of caution to bird owners
If you have birds, you should take the added precaution of keeping them out of the kitchen whenever you’re cooking as they’re highly sensitive to fumes. Birds can quickly become sick by simply breathing while you’re warming up butter or oil in a pan. Vapours from Teflon coated pots and pans can damage their lungs and be fatal - so it’s best to keep them in a well-ventilated space away from the kitchen.
Garbage and compost
Any food posing a danger for pets does so after being tossed in the trash too, perhaps even more so when it becomes mouldy. Some pets, especially dogs, will rummage in the garbage any chance they get, and so it’s worth investing in a sturdy garbage can and compost bin that prevents pets from knocking over and eating anything they shouldn’t!
While prevention is always the best goal, sometimes pets can get into things they shouldn’t. Your first move should be to call your local Animates Vetcare clinic immediately for a clear idea of how serious the issue is and the team will advise you on the next steps to keep your pet safe and healthy.