Bringing home a new pet? You’ve probably considered the best ways to safeguard your rugs and furniture against “accidents.” But when you start to pet-proof your home, the real attention needs to be paid to safeguarding your pet from common household hazards.
A pet may be exposed to dangers in any room of your house, your garage, or your yard. Pet poisonings can occur from insecticides, cleaning products, prescription drugs, houseplants, and even foods you eat every day. Here’s how to keep Fido and Fluffy safe.
4 Ways to Pet-Proof Living Areas
Common pet hazards in living areas include burns or electrocution from electric cords and choking from swallowing items that fall on the floor. Follow these pet-proofing steps:
- Avoid dangling wires or use cord covers. Chewing electric wires is especially tempting for kittens and puppies.
- String-like items that fall on the floor can damage a pet’s intestinal tract. Pick up any tinsel, ribbon, string, or rubber bands. Check areas behind or under furniture carefully.
- Hide tempting goodies. Put away children’s games, small knick-knacks, decorations, crafts, and candies that can be knocked on the floor. Chocolate and xylitol (a sweetener found in many sugar-free candies) can be especially harmful to your pet’s health.
- Ditch the dangerous plants. Be aware of potentially harmful houseplants such as lilies, which are highly toxic to cats, azaleas, geraniums, mistletoe, and poinsettias. Ask your vet for a complete list of potentially harmful plants.
Prevent Pet Poisonings in the Kitchen
Many foods that are safe for you may be dangerous for your new pet. Foods that should be kept out of a dog or cat’s reach and menu include coffee grounds, chocolate, tea, garlic, macadamia nuts, yeast dough, grapes, raisins, rhubarb leaves, and onions. Avocados can be toxic for birds, rabbits, and horses. Chicken bones can splinter and be a choking hazard for your cat or dog.
Follow these guidelines:
- Keep kitchen garbage out of pets’ reach.
- Read labels on cleaning products and keep them stored properly. Bleach can cause damage to a pet’s respiratory and digestive tract.
- Pay special attention to air quality. Fumes from nonstick cooking sprays and self-cleaning ovens can be dangerous for birds.
- Discourage guests from feeding pets from the dining table. Fatty and spicy foods can cause damage to your pet’s digestive system.
Avoid Pet Health Hazards in the Bathroom and Bedroom
Eating just one mothball can make a dog or cat extremely ill — it can even be fatal. Common over-the-counter medications such as pain killers, cold medicines, and vitamins can be toxic for your pet. Even aspirin can cause problems.
Follow these steps:
- Keep all medications out of your bedroom and stored securely in an out-of-reach cabinet.
- Bath soaps, toothpaste, and sunblock can cause pet vomiting and diarrhea and should also be properly stored.
- Keep toilet lids down to keep your pet from drinking treated toilet water. Small pets can drown inside a toilet.
- Always check your washer, dryer, drawers, and closets before closing them to make sure your kitten or puppy has not crawled in for a nap.
Dodge Dangers in Your Garage and Yard
Lurking in your garage is a danger for your pet’s health — antifreeze that contains ethylene glycol. It has a sweet taste that attracts pets, but it’s deadly. Just one teaspoon can kill a cat or small dog. Outside dangers include plants like rhubarb, azalea, and rhododendron, as well as cedar wood shavings and lawn pesticides.
Keep these tips in mind:
- Store all antifreeze, herbicides, pesticides, paints, solvents, and fertilizers in secure areas.
- Keep your pet off grass that has been treated with fertilizer or pesticide for the amount of time specified on the product label. Wet granules can stick to your pet’s feet and be licked off.
- De-icing salts spread on walk and driveways can irritate your pet’s paws. Wash paws after coming in from the snow or use doggie boots.
- Clean spills off the garage floor and driveway. Sweet-tasting antifreeze that has leaked from under your car can be fatal if licked off. There is, however, a pet-friendly anti-freeze that uses propylene glycol, a less toxic base, available in some stores.
It’s important to know the symptoms of pet poisoning, which may include vomiting, significant or foamy salivating, changes on their paws, eyes, or the skin around the mouth, trouble breathing, seizures, or paralysis. If you suspect your pet had been poisoned, call your vet or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435 (there is a charge for the ASPCA service).
Your pet’s health depends on you. If you bring a new pet into your home, make sure that you provide a safe environment. Know potential hazards and pet-proofing your home, room by room.