8 Hidden Household Pet Hazards
As a conscientious pet owner you want to provide the best care for your furry friends. This includes feeding them a healthy diet, regular grooming, giving them adequate play and exercise, and scheduling routine check-ups at your local veterinarian.
Sometimes, however, the safety of the household environment they spend most of their time in is ignored until a curious pet eats or is exposed to an overlooked hazard. Most accidents results from the pet parent's lack of knowledge rather than negligence. Here's a list of eight hidden household pet hazards to be aware of as you seek to create a safe and happy home for your pet.
Many foods that are perfectly safe for humans to eat can be potentially harmful—even deadly—to pets. To be safe, keep these foods away from your pet:
- Onions and garlic
- Macadamia nuts
- Coffee grounds
- Any products containing xylitol (artificial sweetener)
- Fatty foods
- Yeast dough
- Raisins and grapes
2. Cleaning Products
Many cleaning products are safe to use around pets when used as directed. But, as with small children in the house, proper storage of these products is crucial to their safety. Avoid inappropriate contact by storing in a secure cabinet out of reach. Also be sure to maintain the original packaging or keep in a clearly labeled container. These include:
- Bleach and laundry detergents
- Oven cleaners
- Drain cleaners
- Liquid potpourri
In addition to the kitchen and laundry rooms, don't forget about other rooms and storage areas like the bathroom and garage. Some of the hidden hazards found here include:
- Paint thinner and turpentine
- Window washing fluid
- Brake and transmission fluid
- De-icing salts
- Liquid soaps
- Aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen
- Anti-cancer drugs
- Diet pills
- Cold and flu medications
Many house and garden plants can sicken your pet if eaten. Even very small amounts of the toxin can cause harm. The symptoms can range from nausea and vomiting to outright poisoning by liver failure, seizures, and heart failure. Read more in our previous blog post so you can take steps to eliminate this hazard from your home.
6. Small Items on the Floor
Just as you put choking hazards out of reach of any small children in the house, you must be aware of anything that a curious pet may want to chew or swallow. Look for any coins, small toys or figures, jewelry, loose nails or screws, or even bits of string or paper. Ingesting these items may cause choking or damage the digestive tract, resulting in the need for surgery or an emergency office visit.
Here's a photo of the last foreign body I removed from a dog—an Angry Bird toy.
As with small children, your pets have a risk of suffocation from chip bags, snack bags, pet food bags and plastic bags. In cases of asphyxiation, the bag vacuum seals around their face and they can't remove it. Death can occur in as little as 3-5 minutes. Sadly, many pet owners are home when this happens. It is imperative to keep all bags, including unopened snack and chip bags, away from your pets, and store them well away from curious noses.
8. Holiday Hazards
While much of the fun of a holiday involves more activities, decorations, and parties, these also become challenges to keeping our pets safe. Discourage overfeeding—especially spoiling pets with table scraps and extra treats. This extravagance may lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and even pancreatitis. At the very least avoid feeding your pet poultry bones, fatty foods, chocolate, and anything containing xylitol.
For most people, it's just not a holiday without the decorations. Just because pets live in the household you don't have to shelve your holiday spirit with the decorations. It's a matter of choosing wisely and making sure nothing is left on the floor or tables within their reach. Be especially cautious with tinsel, ribbons, and strings as they pose a risk of intestinal damage if swallowed.
At Christmas, take care to protect your pet from eating any poinsettia, mistletoe, or holly. And don't allow them to drink the water from a live tree stand. It could be contaminated from the preservatives or fertilizers in the tree, or simply stagnant and bacteria-laden.
What to do if you think your pet is poisoned
Don't wait! Grab your phone and call us right away at (617) 269-0610. We also recommend the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at (888) 426-4435. This site is staffed by veterinary toxicology specialists. They charge a fee, but that call may save a trip to the emergency room.
Be ready to provide your pet's breed, age, weight, and describe any symptoms you observe. If possible, tell us what you think they ingested or were exposed to, and have packaging available if possible. If you call the hotline, be sure to get a case number for vets to reference if there are special instructions.
And please contact us with any concerns or questions about possible household pet hazards and creating the safest environment for them.
About Dr. Natalie Waggener
Dr. Natalie Waggener has 17 years of experience in emergency work and general practice in Rhode Island, Florida and Massachusetts. She has a special interest in dentistry, wellness care and rehabilitation therapy. She is currently licensed in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island.