Keeping Pets Safe in the Home

Keeping your pets healthy and happy extends beyond getting them veterinary care when they are unwell. It is important that you look after every aspect of your pet’s wellbeing and this includes ensuring your home is a safe environment for them to be in. If you have never had pets before it may surprise you that some everyday items are very dangerous because pets are willing to chew, eat and mess around with them. Think of your pet like a small child… Everyday objects quickly become risks or choking hazards.

According to American Pet Products Association, there are an estimated 78 million dogs and over 85 million cats owned in America. Keeping our furry friends safe and happy starts at home, use this guide to identify common hazards and put measures in place to ensure they are kept out of harm’s way.

Common Hazards

There are many hazards that are found within the average household, below we have outlined some of the most common threats pets may face within a home.

Strings, rubber bands, wires and cords

Ensure all threads, strings and cords are safely stored away or are kept out of reach to avoid pets becoming tangled up. A pet becoming tangled in thread or cable can quickly turn into a disaster. Becoming entangled is not the only threat here, another issue is pets chewing on these items. If your pet swallows thread or rubber bands it can cause an intestinal blockage – an issue that may require surgery to resolve and could be fatal. Chewing on the chords of electrical appliances brings an electrocution risk too. To eliminate these risks, avoid dangling wires and keep cords elevated so they are out of your pet’s reach.

Harmful Products in Accessible Cupboards

It is important to put harmful products that you do not want your pet to have access to into a lockable cupboard. Storing these items in a regular cupboard may seem like enough but as pets are able to open and get into cupboards it is necessary to attach a simple latch such as a child lock in order to keep them safe and ensure their access is restricted. This is particularly important for cupboards that contain chemicals, medicines or foods that are harmful to animals. An inexpensive latch is enough to prevent your pet from entering these cupboards and will completely remove the potential hazard.

Commonly Used Harmful Products

  • Household cleaners
  • Antifreeze
  • Rat poison
  • Insecticides
  • Batteries
  • Plant food/ fertilizer
  • Medicine

Store Medications and Cleaning Products on High Shelves

Similar to the last point, another way to stop your pets getting into cupboards or getting near toxic products is to store the items on high, out of reach shelves. This is effective for dogs and small pets that do not climb but cats tend to enjoy climbing so products on high shelves may still be accessible to them, in which case the lockable cupboard is the most effective approach.

Choking Hazards

Small items are a choking hazard to pets, everything from jewellery to paper clips to batteries could be dangerous to your pet. Things you would usually leave on coffee tables could become a serious problem if your pet decides to chew on the item. Simply be aware of this and move anything that could be a risk into a cupboard or onto a higher shelf.

Be Aware of Dangerous Plants

There are some common house plants that pose a risk to pets, if ingested these plants can cause everything from vomiting and lethargy to death. Over 700 plants have been identified as poisonous, these plants include lilies, tulips, oleander, yew, azaleas, English ivy and chrysanthemum – all of which can be dangerous if consumed by your pet. This is by no means an exhaustive list (for a comprehensive list, check out this resource by The Humane Society). Make sure you are aware of which plants are dangerous to your pets if you keep plants within your home.

Secure Bins Using Pet-Proof Lids

Use pet-proof bin lids that close with a latch so that your pet cannot get into the rubbish while you are away. Your pet getting into bins will not only make a huge mess but could result in them eating something that is harmful to them. A pet-proof lid is a simple, inexpensive switch that could save you a lot of hassle, worry and vet bills.

Keep Harmful Food Safely Stored

Coming home to find your kitchen has been raided by your pet is never a good feeling but when your pet has eaten food that can make them sick it is even more worrying. To avoid your pet eating food that is potentially toxic to them, ensure you store items out of their reach and within latched cupboards (child locks are ideal here) or pet proof food bins.

Common Foods that are Harmful to Pets

  • Alcohol
  • Yeast Dough
  • Chocolate
  • Grapes
  • Milk/ dairy
  • Mushrooms
  • Chewing Gum
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Meat Bones
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Coffee
  • Artificial sweeteners (& food containing artificial sweeteners, particularly xylitol)
  • Salt

What to Do if Your Pet Eats Something Harmful

Prevention is the best cure but if your pet happens to eat something that they shouldn’t, call a vet and speak to them about the situation. Your local vet will be able to best advise you on the next steps to take depending on what has been eaten and the quantities.

Room by Room Safety Tips

Keeping your pet safe at home can be quite a broad, generic topic so here’s some room-specific information to help you secure the danger hot-spots of your home.

Bathroom & Laundry Room

It’s best to keep the door to the bathroom closed as there are many hazards that your pet should be kept away from. Key issues can include:

Toilet

Pets sometimes like to drink water from the toilet bowl, due to the cleaning chemicals you use for your toilet this can be extremely dangerous (not to mention unsanitary). Avoid this by ensuring the toilet seat is kept down and that your pet always has access to clean, fresh water.

Bathtubs or Sinks

Never fill the bath or sink with water and leave it unattended as this is a huge drowning risk for pets.

Appliances

Before using your washer or drier make sure you pet hasn’t climbed inside, cats in particular like to curl up in small spaces such as washing machines and laundry baskets. Also try to keep the machines closed in between uses.

Clothing

Some pets like to chew up whatever they can find, chewing clothes can not only ruin your favourite outfit but can be a choking hazard for your pet. Buttons and zips are a particular issue here. Keep your laundry in a closed laundry bin to ensure your pet doesn’t treat your clothes like a chew toy.

Razors and Toiletries

Keep these out of reach in a lockable cupboard to avoid your pet becoming injured or ingesting something that is toxic to them.

Balcony and Porches

These spaces allow you to enjoy some fresh air from the comfort of your home but can your pet safely enjoy these areas with you?

Balcony: Safety Barrier

The biggest risk of a high balcony is that your pet will fall off, to prevent this make sure you have a safety barrier around the edge of your balcony. Also, keep in mind the size of your pet and the size of the gaps within the barrier – block any gaps that your pet could fit through so you can be sure no accidents will occur.

Porch: Tight Spaces

There may be tight spaces under your porch that your pet could crawl into and become stuck. To avoid this, block the entrances of the crawl spaces with a mesh screen or barrier.

Garden

Pets love spending time in the garden, the fresh air and open space is great for them but take precautions to ensure your garden is a safe and secure area.

Escape

Going into the garden and realizing your pet is not there makes your heart drop. It is one of the worst feelings for any pet owner; avoid this by investing in a good, secure fence. Some pets are pros at escaping no matter what you try, if this is the case then you can put a GPS tag on your pet’s collar so you can always locate them.

Poisonous Plants

We mentioned toxic house plants earlier, the same applies for the garden too. Some plants may look beautiful but can be harmful to your pets so be aware of this when deciding what plants you would like in your garden. Another resource that can help you identify what plants are toxic to your pet is this ASPCA toxic plant list.

Garage

A garage, or shed, is usually full of potential hazards. Keeping things organised and off the ground can make a big difference to the safety of pets here.

Tools

Ensure you keep all tools out of reach, keep them in cabinets or hang them up. Tools can present multiple dangers, from their sharpness causing injury to being a choking hazard.

Chemicals

Garages are usually full of various chemicals and cleaning supplies. If possible keep these in a locked cupboard or stored on a high shelf out of the way. Immediately clean up any spills, just one tablespoon of anti-freeze can be fatal to your cat.

Temperature

If you keep your pet in your garage for any length of time, keep your eye on the temperature of the room. Managing the garage temperature is often overlooked and it doesn’t take long for it to get extremely cold or unbearably hot so take the appropriate measures to keep the temperature comfortable for your pets. This is an important consideration for within your home too.

Pet-Safe Holiday Preparations

Decorating your home for the holidays is exciting but keep in mind that some decorations are dangerous to pets.

  • Avoid Tinsel – for some reason pets seem to love chewing on tinsel, this can be dangerous as it is essentially string and can cause an intestinal blockage which can be fatal. The same dangers exist with ribbons too so be aware of this when decorating and wrapping presents.
  • Avoid Toxic Holiday Plants – Lilies, mistletoe, holly and pine needles are all dangerous to pets so keep this in mind when decorating your home.
  • Hang Fragile, Sharp or Edible Ornaments Higher Up on the Tree – try to keep plastic and cloth ornaments on the lower part of the tree to keep your pet’s safe if they play by the tree
  • Unplug Lights When You Go Out – unplug the decorative lights before you go out and keep the cords off the floor to minimize risk

Keeping Your Pet Safe During Natural Disasters

Preparation can save your pets life during a natural disaster. These simple precautions can make a big difference if anything were to ever happen:

  • Microchip your pet & make sure they wear a collar with an ID tag – if your pet ever gets lost they can be easily identified and returned to you.
  • Keep their vaccinations up to date – this is important for their health and wellbeing and will reduce their risks if they escape or need to be temporarily housed with other animals.
  • Keep them inside during bad weather – keeping your pet inside will help to keep them safe during storms or floods.

Worried About Your Pet?

If you are out working all day you might be worrying about your pet who is home alone. That is completely understandable but there are a few ways you can ease your worries, reduce your stress and make sure your pets are fine.

Install Indoor Cameras

If you’re worried about your pet while you are away from home, think about installing indoor cameras so you can easily check in using your smart phone or laptop and see exactly what your furry friend is up to when you’re not there. In addition to the security benefits, these cameras allow you to instantly check on your pet and make sure they are ok.

Install Smoke Alarms That Sends You Alerts

Having smoke and carbon monoxide alarms is extremely important but what if the alarm goes off while you’re out but your pet is at home? There are alarms available that sends you and the emergency services an alert when there is a problem and this could save their lives if something happens when you’re not at home.

Useful Resources for Pet Care & Safety

Pets are part of the family so taking good care of them is of great importance to many of us, if you would like some extra advice or information use the resources below:

Pet Poison Helpline – This is a 24/7 animal poison control centre that offers expert help and emergency instructions for when your pet has eaten something poisonous.

ASPCA – this well-known cruelty prevention organization offers a range of expert pet care advice and information for owners.

Vets Now – this site offers vet advice and a database of pet care articles.

Blue Cross – this charity helps sick, injured and abandoned pets and offers veterinary care, expert advice and education for current pet owners.

American Veterinary Medical Association – The AVMA offers a selection of public resources related to pet care, emergency care, animal welfare and public health.

PetMD – pet health and nutrition information that has been written and approved by vets.

Animal Humane Society –  this animal welfare organization offers advice and information for pet owners.

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