Keep Your Dogs Safe

It's often difficult to understand just how huge is the range of items that are, or may be, toxic to dogs. This includes a large number of garden plants and shrubs such as Azalea, Boxwood, Hydrangea, Laburnum, Philodendron, rhododendrons, and Oleander; the berries of Holly; the flowers of Narcissus, Periwinkle, Primrose, Peony, Foxglove, lilies, Autumn crocus, Amaryllis and many others; bulbs, especially those of Daffodil, Hyacinth, and Tulip; acorns, the leaves and stems of apple and cherry trees. They don't necessarily have to be eaten, just chewing on them can be enough. Major problems have been found to occur when shrubs such as hydrangeas are being cut back, especially when it's being done with a strimmer or hedgecutter, as the chopped up leaves and stems seem particularly attractive to animals. See these links for further information:-
http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/plants/
- the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' full list of plants that are poisonous to dogs
https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/help-advice/factsheets-downloads/factsheetpoisonoussubstances09.pdf - the Dogs Trust list of poisonous plants, garden and household substances
http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/dogs/ - the Cornell University Department of Animal Science lists on plants everywhere
http://pets.webmd.com/features/yard-cats-dogs - the WebMD page on Is Your Yard Safe for Your Dog & Cat?

And whilst we're in the garden one of the most dangerous things is cocoa mulch that is sold for layering on flower beds to keep down weeds. This is not only highly toxic to dogs and cats but is also very attractive to many of them. See these links for further information:-
http://www.poison.org/poisonpost/june2012/cocoabeanmulch.htm - National Capital Poison Center page
http://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/2010/04/29/health-and-family/pets-animals/hidden-dangers-cocoa-mulch.html - Article on The Saturday Evening Post website
http://www.higginsanimalclinic.com/site/epage/15695_332.htm - Higgins Animal Clinic Pet Resources page on cocoa mulch

Move indoors and many houseplants are highly toxic. These include Asparagus fern, Caladium, Colocasia, Dieffenbacher, chrysanthemums, and the Christmas favourite, Poinsettia. With cut flowers, lilies can be highly toxic [they are especially dangerous for cats but many dogs can be adversely affected, and they don't have to be eaten - their perfume is enough]. To watch a video from the Animal Poison Control Center on the most dangerous houseplants, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WndJLJD8R9k and there are articles to be found:-
http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/plants_poisonous_to_pets.html - a downloadable .pdf file on toxic plants
http://www.sunset.com/garden/flowers-plants/plants-poisonous-to-dogs - the Sunset page on houseplants that are toxic to dogs (another list on those toxic to cats has a link from that page).
http://www.improvenet.com/a/guide-to-pet-safe-house-plants - a General Expertise article on a Guide to Pet-Safe House Plants.


On to food, and chocolate [and all its derivatives, such as cocoa], is highly dangerous. Also dangerous are grapes and their dried versions such as raisins and sultanas, which can cause renal failure. Apple pips come under the same heading. Onions and garlic in anything but very small amounts can be dangerous. The stones of apricots, peaches, plums are also to be avoided, as is any part of the avocado, including the tree. Nuts such as Macadamias and Walnuts are dangerous, and products containing the sweetener Xylitol (used in diet products, chewing gum and confectionery) can cause loss of coordination, seizures and death. Even eating just a tiny piece of chewing gum (or anything else) sweetened with Xylitol can cause major health problems, liver failure and death. Green potatoes are highly toxic. Mushrooms as well as toadstools are dangerous. Yeast dough is also dangerous, so be careful when bread making. Products from soya beans should also be avoided, and this includes soya milk, as well as any food or treats with soya added.

Coffee, cola, and tea should not be given to dogs, as caffeine is toxic to them. Nor should they be given alcoholic drinks. Many dogs are lactose intolerant and so have adverse reactions to milk and other dairy products such as yoghurt or cheese. These can cause all sorts of upsets including sickness, diarrhoea and skin problems. Some dogs won't be adversely affected but many will. However, some that are adversely affected by cows milk and its dairy products can be fine with goats milk or sheeps milk. For more details on feeding milk and milk products to your dog see http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/dog-feeding-tips/dogs-milk-dairy-products/

Drugs, including over-the-counter drugs, vitamin and mineral supplements, and tobacco should all be kept well out of reach of dogs, as should household cleaners, insecticides, garden sprays, paint thinner, nail varnish, fertilisers, battery acid, and, especially, anti-freeze, which is not only fatal to dogs but which they find very attractive. Citrus and pine oils are highly dangerous, as are mothballs, detergents and bleach.

Not all dogs are going to be affected, or severely affected, by some of these things but there's no way of knowing how your dog is going to be, so make sure anything potentially harmful is kept well out of the way.

For a very detailed list of how to keep dogs safe at home on the Partnership for Animal Rescue site, including links to many other helpful sites - http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_HouseholdSafety.php

For the ASPCA page on a poison safe home - https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/poison-safe-home

For a veterinary article on the risks of grapes, raisins and sultanas - http://www.magonlinelibrary.com/doi/10.1111/j.2044-3862.2007.tb00121.x

The About.com article on Toxins and Your Dog - http://dogs.about.com/od/dogandpuppyhealth/tp/toxins.htm

The Animal Poison Control Center list of toxic and non-toxic plants, so you know what is safe to grow - http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants


Although it doesn't come under the heading of toxins, plastic bags can kill your dog. Dogs have died from plastic bags they have found as litter when out and from trying at home to sneak crisps, biscuits, etc. from packages containing plastic bags. They push their muzzle into the bag and their breathing holds it firmly in place, preventing their taking any more breaths and they are unable to get the bag off and therefore suffocate. Make sure that ALL PLASTIC BAGS AND BOXES WITH BAG LINERS IN THEM (chips, snack crackers, cookies, cereal, etc.) are WAY out of your pets' reach!

Make sure your dog's toys are safe, not just to play with but in case of being chewed or swallowed. Toys made for carrying in the mouth must be suited in size to the dog, as items such as a ball intended for a small breed could easily be swallowed by a large or giant breed and cause the dog to be choked to death. If your dog or puppy is inclined to rip things to pieces, never leave it alone with anything that could be shredded as all too often the shredded bits are swallowed and can cause blockages anywhere in the system. And be particularly careful of any toy that has such things as beads or bits of metal in or on it, as these can all too often be swallowed and cause major damage and even fatality. For a page on dog toys and how to pick the best and safest, see the Humane Society of the United States website - http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/dogs/tips/dog_toys.html. This sort of problem can also be caused by clothing being chewed and bits swallowed, especially such things as socks, tights, and so on.

If you have a swimming pool at home, or take your dog for walks on the beach, then be aware of the possible dangers. One example is the dangerous effects of chlorine on dogs. However, dogs taking a drink from a stream or puddle on a countryside walk could be imbibing something dangerous, especially where farmers have been spraying crops, or in the local park where weedkillers may have been used or paving washed with chemicals. Or even just along your local street, where someone may have been washing their car or driveway and using chemicals. There is also the possibility of dogs picking up harmful bacteria from ponds or lakes. If you're going for a long walk with your dog, then it's safest to take a bottle of water with you for the dog to drink. For dogs and water safety see the PetsWebMD page - http://pets.webmd.com/pets-water-safety

Then there's the hazards of fire in the home. For an article on Fire Prevention and Recovery see http://www.homeadvisor.com/r/fire-prevention-preparedness-and-recovery/#pets

Also a paper shredder can be extremely dangerous for dogs (and other animals and young children). Never, ever leave a paper shredder switched on or even plugged into the electricity supply when you are not actually using it. It only takes a little pressure to start it off and, for example, a lick with a tongue could all too easily end with a seriously injured - and possibly tongue-less or even dead - dog. For details of some such horror stories, click here
and on the PetPlace.com website


On to overheating, which is an extremely important area, given that dogs can't sweat and the only cooling method they have is panting. They can also get sunburn and this is especially the case with dogs with thin and/or light coloured coats. It is of the utmost importance in hot weather to take extra care of any dog; exercising should only be done in the early morning and late afternoon/evening, when the temperature is going to be at its lowest, and never in the heat of the day. Obviously it is necessary for every dog to be given the opportunity for toiletting at regular hours throughout the day, and for some owners this can only be done on a walk but such walks should be kept as short as possible and preferably as much as possible out of direct sunlight. Equal care needs to be taken if the dog is let out in the garden in hot weather for toiletting. If it is a dog that rushes about frantically if it sees or hears any passersby, or if it is a group of dogs being let out and they might rush around playing, then care must be taken that they are not just turned out and left, as all too often dogs don't realise they've overdone things until they are in a state of collapse. It should also be borne in mind that tarmac can get hot enough in strong sunshine to burn a dog's paws, so it's best when walking them to keep to grassy areas as much as possible.

It's not just outdoors where hot weather can be a problem, as kennels and houses can get extremely hot and it is especially important not to have a dog confined anywhere that this likely to occur, such as in a conservatory or garden room, or dog house.

Elderly dogs and dogs with health problems, especially heart problems, are particularly prone to the adverse effects of getting overheated. It is very important to keep a close eye on them, even if every care is being taken to keep them cool. However it might seem to be the best way to cool down an overheated dog, never apply ice packs to the body of a dog with a major problem from the heat, such as going into a state of collapse, as this constricts the blood vessels and worsens the situation. Just use cool (not icy) water and perhaps wrap them in towels that have been wrung out in cool water and rush them to the veterinarian.

Dogs that are kept outside, even if they have open access to a garden or run, need to have some sort of shade available throughout the day in hot weather, and a kennel is not going to provide this, as it can quickly become extremely hot. And no animal should be left in a car or any other vehicle. It is not enough to leave the vehicle parked in shade, nor to leave the windows open, as what is shade at one time may not be shaded for long, and open windows are not going to prevent a metal vehicle turning into an oven very quickly.

Dogs should, of course, be provided with fresh water to drink all the time, but this is even more important in hot weather and it is absolutely vital that their source of water be continually available as otherwise they will quickly become dehydrated. If taking them on a walk, take a bottle of water with you.

It is sometimes suggested that sunscreen lotion be applied to dogs that are going to be outside in hot weather, especially those with light coloured coats and not much hair, but this is not a good thing to be doing, especially not with sunscreen made for humans, or even those made for very young babies. Not only do dogs have very permeable skins that the chemicals in sunscreens will all too easily move through and possibly cause havoc in their bodies, but dogs lick themselves, so anything applied to their skin needs to be safe for oral consumption.

For more on keeping your dogs safe in hot weather, see
https://www.aaha.org/pet_owner/pet_health_library/dog_care/general_health/keeping_your_dog_safe_from_summer_heat.aspx - the AAHA page on Keeping your dog safe from summer heat
http://dogtime.com/dog-health/general/2596-keep-dog-cool - the dogtime page on Keep your dog safe in the summer heat
http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/features/dog-cool-summer - the webMD page on How to keep your dog cool in the summer

The main homeopathic remedy for dealing with problems caused by overheating is Glonoine, and Carbo vegetabilis for dogs in a state of collapse, but the most important thing is to rush any dog in these states to the veterinarian for treatment as a matter of urgency.


On to noise and the many problems it can cause, whether it's a thunderstorm, or Bonfire Night, or any other time when there's fireworks, or aeroplanes whizzing overhead, and so on. Some dogs can just turn to a shivering jelly or go completely berserk with panic, even to crashing through a window or hurtling out into a road. Some dogs are terrified by anything unusual, such as a hot air balloon, or a vehicle going past with windows open and the radio turned up to full blast. This is one of the reasons why it's so important for puppies to be socialised not just to people and other dogs/ animals but to as many different sounds and sights, machinery, floor coverings, etc. as it's possible to conjure up so that they learn to accept the huge variety of things in their world without thinking everything has to stay the same and anything new or different is scarey. But even this may not prevent highly sensitive dogs from becoming phobic, especially to storms as the electrical charge is often the trigger for their panic and the noise is secondary.

http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2012/05/23/storm-phobic-dogs-therapy.aspx - page on storm phobia and various other similar conditions
http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/dogs/tips/fear_thunder_loud_noises.html - the Humane Society of the United States page on Fear of thunder and other loud noises
http://www.petmd.com/blogs/dailyvet/2009/June/09-4226 - the PetMD page on Nine ways to handle your dog's fear of thunderstorms
http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/features/dog-storm-phobia - the PetsWebMD pages on What to do if you have a dog with storm phobia

Giving tranquillisers to a terrified or panic-stricken dog is very much not a good idea, since they don't remove the problem but just make it impossible for the dog to be able to escape and therefore add to its terror. However, alternative therapies can work really well on these problems, and without causing side effects. Therapies such as TTouch and EFT can help enormously, as can Flower Essences, and for a very helpful article on using such therapies see this page on the Whole Dog Journal website - http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/3_4/features/Dogs-Afraid-Thunder_5131-1.html


If you are in an area prone to major problems such as flooding, hurricanes, forest fires, and so on, then it might be sensible to make a disaster plan for your pets. See this page on the Humane Society of the United States website for detailed suggestions - http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/animal_rescue/tips/pets-disaster.html


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My thanks to Jasmine Dyoco, http://educatorlabs.org/ | Cultivating. Connecting. Curating. 2054 Kildaire Farm Rd. #204 | Cary, NC | 27518, for several of the links on this page

Updated 3/17/2016