The moment a puppy, older or rescued dog comes into our homes and into our hearts, we must take full responsibility for his or her health, well-being, and socialization skills by giving it an abundance of love, understanding, and guidance. Your dog’s life is dependent upon you and- at the risk of sounding heavy – sometimes it’s matter of life or death.
For some of us, caring for a dog comes naturally and some of us will learn as we go; but it should never be at your dog’s expense. You never want your dog to pay the penalty of trial and error, as some errors cannot be undone.
Dogs are not people too, and they cannot safely consume every type of food that we take for granted. Here are a few you may not be aware of: alcohol, avocados, candy, chocolate (baker’s and dark being the worst), coffee, tea, onions, garlic, grapes, macadamia nuts, raisins, salt, green potatoes, and potato skin, apple seeds, fruit pits, dietary products including sugar-free gum, caffeine, and tobacco. Peanut butter is a favorite treat for dogs but some manufacturers use Xylitol in manufacturing, which is extremely toxic to canines. This is NOT a complete list.
If you have any experience with baby-proofing your home, it’s not a far reach to puppy-proof it. If there are rooms where you absolutely DO NOT want your dog to enter, gates are the answer. They’re available in every height and width; can be free-standing, pressure mounted or wall mounted; and made of wood, metal, or plastic. They range from inexpensive to high-end designer types. Once upon a time, when I was a kid, my father used two shutters placed about an inch off the floor. They swung back and forth like saloon doors and hooked in the middle to keep them closed. Actually, it wasn’t a half-bad idea. Just think how creative you could be with a little help from a home improvement center.
An accident waiting to happen may not be obvious and can be hiding in plain sight like plants that you would never suspect are poisonous. Less obvious hidden dangers may be lurking behind closed cabinet doors and come in the form of prescription drugs, household chemicals, and insecticides.
Because love, a meal, and a warm blanket are not enough, keep the following information handy in your kitchen or taped inside a cabinet door for quick reference. This is by no means a complete list of all the hazards that need to be eliminated, but rather an informative beginning to a subject that might have us thinking to ourselves, “Hmmm. I didn’t know that!”
Prescription and over-the-counter drugs are highest on the list for cases of poisoning. Painkillers, cold and allergy medicines, antidepressants, vitamins, sleep aids, blood pressure meds, and diet pills can be lethal to dogs, even in small doses. Even dog-friendly pharmaceuticals must be dosed correctly by your veterinarian. Please check with your vet first before giving your dog any medications.
Household cleaners and chemicals are highly toxic. Detergents, stain removers, soaps, disinfectants, antiseptics, bleach, antibacterial agents, toilet/drain/oven cleaners, mold and mildew removers, counter, floor, and window cleaners, as well as personal bathing, shampooing and hygiene products, and even toothpaste, mouthwash, hand-sanitizer, and suntan lotion, maybe exceedingly harmful to our pets. Any chemical used on a car, lawn, swimming pool, septic tank, or cesspool should be considered highly toxic. They should be handled and stored appropriately. Keeping chemical products in bins inside cabinets can help reduce easy access if a cabinet is unintentionally left open.
Pest control and insect repellents are not only toxic when consumed directly by your dog, but the consumption of a poisoned animal can result in secondary poisoning. Fly bait, mothballs, ant traps may look like chew toys to your dog. Flea and tick powder, mosquito repellents used by humans, and pets can be highly toxic. Oral tick and flea control, as well as heart-worm medications, should be stored safely – especially since they’re made to be palatable to your pet.
Indoor and outdoor plants, whether common year-round or seasonal holiday variety, may pose a danger if ingested. It’s imperative that you are able to recognize the symptoms of poisoning in case your dog decides to dine on any of them.
Some of the names you may recognize are: Lilies, Azaleas, Rhododendron, Schefflera, Kalanchoe, Sago Palm, Ferns, Ivy, Hyacinth, Narcissus, Daffodil, Oleander, Dieffenbachia, Jasmine, Mistletoe, Poinsettias, and Easter lilies. Know what’s in your home and garden.
Small enough to swallow doesn’t mean it’s harmless. Beware of pennies from 1983 to the present day. They are made of zinc. Zinc toxicity can result from the ingestion of one single penny. Independent of the date, be scrupulous about keeping all coins out of your dog’s reach.
It’s hard to remember all the details outlined in this column. Here are a few suggestions to help keep your dog safe.
1) Make a list of “undesirable” products.
2) Make these products inaccessible to your dog.
3) Keep your vet’s phone number posted – better still, put it in your cell phone “contacts”.
4) Ask your vet for his 24-hour emergency referral phone number, address, and know the best way to get there. If you have a GPS, store the information.
5) Keep your local Poison Control office number posted or call the ANIMAL POISON CONTROL CENTER 888-4ANI-HELP (888-426-4435). A fee may be charged to your credit card.
Love your pet within a sphere of safety and well-being.