10 Ways to Dog-Proof Your Home and Avoid an Emergency Vet Visit

Are you spring cleaning? It's a good time to watch for things that are harmful to dogs -- here's my shortlist.


We’ve all done it: You turn your back for a second and your boisterous yellow Lab has already bolted for the open door, or your pint-sized Yorkie is snooping around inside your purse. One day I dropped an ibuprofen tablet and Rufus, my 65-pound Pit Bull Terrier, was right by my side, tongue out and ready to slurp it up. Luckily, I beat him to it. Not everyone is so lucky.

Even the smallest dogs have a voracious appetite and a natural curiosity that keeps us on our toes. That’s why it’s important to understand that many of the items we have in our households, yards, and even purses can be poisonous to dogs. As the seasons change and we ready for spring cleaning indoors and outdoors, prevention should be at the top of your mind when it comes to keeping our dogs safe.

Here are some tips to keep you and your dog from an emergency visit to the vet.

1. Don’t overdo it with dog products

When administering pet products such as flea or tick medication, more is not better. In addition, only use products intended for dogs. Don’t use a cat product on a dog or vice versa. Things that are okay for one species may not be okay for another.

2. Put a lid on your medications

Keep your medications, prescription, and over-the-counter drugs out of your dog’s reach. Ibuprofen, vitamin C, prenatal vitamins, Tylenol, antidepressants, heart medication, sleep aids, and beta blockers (just to name a few), are all hazards to your dog.

3. Lock up household cleaners

These should be kept out of reach of your pets at all times — and don’t put them under the kitchen sink. Cleaners such as bleach can result in stomach and respiratory tract problems.

4. Keep pennies out of reach

If swallowed, pennies can cause zinc poisoning, leading to severe anemia and weakness in dogs. Pennies made before the 1980s have much higher zinc levels than more current pennies. Keep your purse out of reach and spare change out of the couch cushions.

5. Avoid hazardous plants

Certain plants can be hazardous, including spring flowers like daffodils, lilies, and azaleas. The common household and office plant known as dumb cane can be lethal even in small doses. Wild mushrooms and the mold that grows on black walnuts can cause poisoning as well. Here’s the ASPCA’s list of pet-safe plants.

6. Be pet-safe with fertilizer and insecticides

Chemicals such as weed killer and snail and slug bait can cause problems including upset stomach and even death. Discuss pet-safe options with your yard professional or local garden center. Always hose down your driveway if you spill a potentially toxic chemical.

7. Be careful with pest control

Traps set out for mice, rats, or any other pest should always be placed out of reach of your pet.

8. Watch for harmful critters

Warm weather brings out all kinds of critters, including several that may be poisonous to your pet, including some snakes, frogs, toads, insects, and scorpions. Know the local species that could be harmful to your pet.

9. Be cautious with home-improvement items

Home improvement products such as paint and solvents can be toxic to your dog, causing severe irritation and burns. Keep all these types of products lidded and properly stored when not in use.

10. Keep “people food” for people

Easter is right around the corner, and better weather means more chances for gatherings. Make sure your guests know that many treats that are delicious and nutritious for humans can be harmful to your dog. To name a few, grapes, currants, and raisins are toxic and can cause kidney failure in some cases. Sugar substitute xylitol is toxic even in small amounts and can lead to liver failure. Macadamia nuts can cause weakness, overheating, and vomiting. Even vegetables that seem harmless, like onions, chives, and garlic, can cause anemia or death.

Always have a dog first-aid kit on hand for accidents. Basic supplies should include a pet first-aid manual, emergency numbers to nearest veterinarian and emergency animal clinic, updated paperwork and records, a current photo of your pet, gauze pads and rolls, adhesive tape, antiseptic, cotton balls and swabs, hydrogen peroxide, saline solution, ice pack, scissors and tweezers, a pet carrier, leash, muzzle, can of wet food, and towels.

In any situation, if you are unsure of what to do, consult your veterinarian or call the ASPCA Poison Control Center at (888) 462-4435. Always consult a licensed veterinarian or poison control for directions on how and when to use emergency first aid.

About the Author: Aimee Gilbreath is the executive director of the Found Animals Foundation.

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