When a person brings a pet into their life, they are accepting responsibility for its care and safety. For many, a pet also becomes a part of the family, and as such, they naturally want it to remain as healthy as possible.
There are many things within one’s immediate environment that can cause a pet harm, even though these things may seem harmless to a human. It is important to recognize these dangers, which can be anything from the foods that people eat to the plants outdoors.
Pet safety also involves planning ahead and preparing for potential problems in the future. When a pet owner strives to create a safe environment, everyone should be made aware of the safety measures that should be taken for the pet cat, bird, or dog. Pet-sitting relatives or neighbors will then also know how to keep the animal safe in the owner’s absence.
Foods Toxic to Animals
For some people, a pet’s craving for human food may seem cute or entertaining. Because people enjoy certain foods without immediate health risks, they may mistakenly assume that their pets can enjoy the same items without any ill effects other than potential weight gain. Unfortunately, weight gain is only one of the many problems that may arise from feeding one’s pet certain types of human food. Some foods, even those that are commonly associated with pets such as cats, are toxic and can cause digestive problems or even death.
The safest thing that one can do for their pet is to eliminate any risk and avoid feeding them human food altogether. If that is unacceptable, pet owners must research what foods are safe and which are toxic.
Examples of toxic foods for pets, in general, include alcohol, which can cause depression, breathing problems, and even death; grapes and raisins, which can cause kidney failure; and doughs made of yeast, as they can cause a pet’s intestines to rupture.
Chocolate and foods containing caffeine can result in vomiting, abnormal heartbeat, increased urination, seizures, and, in some cases, death.
Some items, such as milk, are confusing for pet owners, as images of cats lapping up saucers of milk are common. In reality, milk causes digestive issues such as diarrhea, as animals lack enough of the enzyme needed to break down lactose.
Other foods that may be toxic to animals include garlic, walnuts and macadamia nuts, and avocados.
- People Food to Avoid Feeding Your Pet
- Foods That Can Be Poisonous to Pets
- Seven Foods You Should Avoid Feeding Your Dog or Cat
- Certain Foods and Household Products Can be Dangerous to Dogs (PDF)
- Human Foods: Are Some Dangerous for Parrots? (PDF)
Plants Toxic to Animals
Toxic plants are both an indoor and outdoor safety issue for families with pets. Pet owners must be aware of what plants they bring into their home for decorative purposes during the holidays or for everyday decor. Outdoor flowers, shrubs, and other plants can prove dangerous to pets that may chew and eat them.
When purchasing plants, one can ask local nurseries which plants are safe for animals, and nurseries can also help identify clippings of plants that may be toxic. One’s vet is also a source of information, and they can provide pet owners with a list of plants to avoid both indoors and outside. While there are more than 700 plants that are dangerous if ingested, some of the more common ones include flowers such as calla, day, and Easter lilies, azaleas, hydrangeas, oleander, and autumn crocus.
Other plants that are toxic to animals include the elephant ear plant, English ivy, and rhododendron. If one’s pet has eaten a toxic plant, the animal may show signs such as tremors, vomiting, lethargy, and breathing rapidly.
Pet owners who suspect that their animal has poisoned itself should take it to the vet immediately. They should also bring a cut sample of the ingested plant.
- Rover’s Poisonous Plants for Dogs Database
- Pets and Toxic Plants
- Common Plants That Are Potentially Toxic to Pets
- Dealing with Plant Eating Pets
- Poisonous Plants to Pets (PDF)
- Pets and Toxic Plants: Weed Lethal Foliage From Your Home (PDF)
- Toxic Christmas Plants
Indoor Pet Safety
For some people, their pets spend a good deal of time indoors. While this may seem safer than letting pets outdoors, there are dangers both hidden and obvious that can prove deadly for household pets.
Toxic chemicals in the form of household cleaners can be dangerous for pets. Cleaners should be kept closed and stored in a location where they cannot be knocked over or otherwise spilled. People should also avoid using chemicals near their pets, particularly near their food and water.
Windows can be dangerous for pets, particularly high windows. Keep these closed or use screens to prevent animals from falling out.
Stairs may also prove dangerous for pets and owners alike, as some pets may have difficulty walking up or down them and fall, and pets laying on stairs can become stumbling hazards for people. Baby gates can be utilized to keep pets off of stairs and effectively eliminate these types of risks.
Candles are yet another safety issue for homes with pets. Candles should be placed in a sturdy location high enough so that they cannot be knocked over. Special care should be taken when burning candles in homes with cats.
Household temperatures are another danger for pets, particularly during the summer months. Temperatures inside of one’s home can increase during the summer months, causing pets stress and putting them at risk for heat exhaustion.
People can keep their homes cool by programming their air conditioning unit so that it remains a comfortable temperature. Closing shades or blinds can also keep some of the heat out.
Ideally, if a pet is kept inside of a home during a hot day, place the animal in one of the cooler rooms in the house and make certain that clean water is accessible.
- How to Poison-Proof Your Living Room
- Is Your Home Safe for Your Pet? (PDF)
- Home Safety Checklist
- How to Make Your Home Pet-Friendly: All-Fours Inspection
- Guidelines: Protecting Animals Around the Home (PDF)
Outdoor and Seasonal Pet Safety
There are many hazards to take into account when ensuring the safety of a pet outdoors. Some of these hazards are year-round concerns, while others are more seasonal.
When a pet is outdoors other than in one’s fenced yard, it should be kept on a leash at all times. This can help protect the animal from running into the street, where they face the threat of traffic.
A leash will also keep one’s pet from wandering into areas that can prove hazardous in terms of toxic plants and flowers, other animals, or homeowners who may not want animals on their property.
During the summer months, pet owners should protect their pets from extreme temperatures and the problems that too much sun can cause.
Dogs, for example, can become sunburned if their noses are exposed to sunlight too long without protection. This is particularly true for animals with lighter-colored noses.
Hot sidewalks and other surfaces can burn the pads of an animal’s feet if they become too hot as well. On the hottest days, keep pets indoors when possible. If this is not possible, keep them in a shaded area, away from direct sunlight.
During the winter season, pets can become too cold outdoors as well. As in the summer months, keeping pets indoors is ideal during extreme temperatures.
Animals that are unaccustomed to staying indoors can be moved into a garage that is well-ventilated and warm. An outdoor pet house is also an option. If one’s cat is an outdoor pet, tap the hood of a vehicle before starting it in the mornings: Cats often seek warmth in the area of a car’s engine compartment.
If they are not startled from their warm spot, they are in danger of serious injury from the radiator fan once the vehicle is turned on.
When it comes to canine pets, snow can easily get packed in the pads of their paws and can result in frostbite. When walking outside with a dog, pet-sitting teens or family members should get into the habit of checking paws for snow or ice.
- Seasonal Pet Safety Tips
- Pet Safety Tips to Protect From the Heat, Sun This Summer (Video)
- How Cold Is Too Cold?
- How Can I Keep My Pet Safe Outdoors in Cold Temperatures?
- Keeping Your Pet Cool During the Summer
Disasters can strike at any time, and when they do, they put families at risk. This includes the furred and feathered additions to one’s family as well.
To ensure the safety of one’s pets, it is important to create a plan specifically for them. To ensure the safety of a pet during an emergency situation, start by purchasing a collar and pet ID tag. Have pet carriers available to transport the animals from one location to the next in the event of an evacuation.
Also in the event of an evacuation, pet owners need to have the name and location of the nearest animal shelter or hotel that is pet-friendly, as most emergency shelters do not allow pets. Disasters such as house fires can occur when one is away from home.
In these situations, the pet owner is not able to evacuate their pet themselves. Purchasing a decal for one’s window can alert emergency responders to the presence of an animal that may be in need of rescuing.
- Red Cross Emergency Pet Safety
- Disaster Preparedness
- Keep Pets Safe
- Tips for Keeping Your Pets Safe During Disasters ( PDF)
- Caring for Animals