Keeping Spot Safe: A Complete Resource for Pet Safety in the Home
There's no denying that your pet is a member of the family. You may even give your pet free reign of the house, just as you would to anyone else that lives there. Yet, in spite of the amount of love you have for your pet and the amount of freedom they have, your pet is still an animal, not a human. This means that your pet is going to interact with your environment in your home differently than you, and things you would know not to touch our pet may not realize are dangerous. To make your pet fully safe at home, you need to give some attention to these important safety protocols.
Pet Safety in the Bedroom
Did you know that close to 80 percent of pet owners report sleeping with their pets? If your pets are allowed in your bedroom, you need to take some precautions to make sure they are safe. The good news is that most bedrooms are fairly safe for your pets, but that doesn't mean there aren't a few safety measures you can take. Here are some areas to give attention:
If your pet has a tendency to chew, then make sure electrical cords are off the ground and out of reach. A pet chewing on a cord is at risk for electrocution. In addition, pets that don't chew, but that like to play with dangling wires, risk damaging the electrical item or pulling a heavy lamp down on themselves.
If you can't put the cords out of reach, consider products designed to camouflage them or make them hard to chew, like cord covers or chewing deterrent spray.
If you are letting your pets onto your bed, consider its height in relationship to the size of your pet. Small pets may struggle to jump on and off of tall furniture. Jumping off of a high bed can cause leg injury, so make sure that the pets are able to access the bed safely. Pet stairs or a pet ramp can be a nice addition to your home if you want your pets in bed with you.
For pets, like cats, who have a tendency to climb, be cautious about furniture you would not normally consider to be a problem. Your dresser, for example, could end up being something the cat climbs on. Make sure it is secure and there are not heavy items that could be knocked off.
Your bedroom is the room where you have a tendency to stash your small items, like batteries, jewelry, pens and more. If your pet chews on these, they could cause him to choke. To avoid a problem, keep these small items high on your dresser or in a sealed storage container so your pet doesn't have easy access.
Pet Safety in the Kitchen
The kitchen can be a virtual landmine for pets. You're going to have to be vigilant to help keep your pets safe, especially for pets who like to gobble up table scraps. Unfortunately, pets are not able to distinguish dangers that humans would typically clearly see, like sharp items and hot stoves.
Hide the Garbage
It may be gross and unappetizing for you, but for your pet the garbage is a virtual treasure chest. Unfortunately, the garbage also contains spoiled food, household chemicals and choking hazards that are a danger and risk for your pet. You must find a way to keep your pet out of the garbage.
For this you have two options. One is to buy a garbage can with a pet-safe lid. Remember that a determined pet will find a way to open the lid of the can if it's not a specially designed pet-safe lid. The second option is to keep the garbage in the pantry or under the kitchen sink, and then keep the door closed at all times.
From cleaning supplies to fragile and sharp dishes, your kitchen cabinets are not a place for your pet to play. For most pets, keeping the cabinets closed and the items put away where they belong is enough to keep them safe, but some pets, especially exotic pets or really determined cats and dogs, will learn to open cabinets. If yours seems to be a Houdini, consider installing child-safety locks on the cabinets that are within your pet's reach.
The kitchen is full of hazards, and the best way to prevent a tragedy is to keep the kitchen clean and potentially hazardous items out of reach of your pet at all times. One of the biggest hazards is foods that are toxic to pets. Some of the top culprits, according to the ASPCA, include:
- Alcohol - Alcohol can kill your pets, so don't give them access to it.
- Avocado - Avocado affects horses, donkeys, rabbits, birds, sheep and goats the most.
- Chocolate, Coffee and Caffeine - These foods contain methylxanthines, which can cause stomach upset, abnormal heart rhythm, seizures and death.
- Citrus - Citrus plants contain citric acid, which can cause irritation to the stomach and damage to the central nervous system if ingested in alrge dosese.
- Coconut Products - Large amounts of coconut can cause tummy upset in pets.
- Grapes and Raisins - These fruits can lead to kidney failure in pets.
- Milk - Your cat doesn't need a warm bowl of milk, as lactase can cause digestive upset.
- Nuts - Nuts can cause stomach upset, and macadamia nuts can cause tremors, depression and weakness as well.
- Onions, Chives and Garlic - These herbs can cause damage to red blood cells as well as stomach upset, and cats are more at risk than dogs.
- Uncooked meat and eggs - Salmonella and E. coli are a risk to your pets just as they are to you. Raw bones are also a danger, as they can splinter easily and cause a serious choking risk.
- Salt - Salt and salty snack foods can cause sodium ion poisoning.
- Xylitol - This sweetener, often found in gum, can cause liver failure.
- Yeast Dough - Uncooked yeast products can cause bloat and twisting of the digestive tract.
Consider Gating the Kitchens
The safest way to keep your pet safe in the kitchen is to make it inaccessible. Consider installing a gate to keep your pets from accessing the kitchen except for those times when you want him in there. This is the safest way to prevent a serious problem in the kitchen.
Pet Safety in the Bathroom
The bathroom, like the kitchen, is full of potential hazards. Unfortunately, because hits is a room where you tend to come and go during the busiest times of your day, it's easy to overlook pet safety in this room. However, failure to keep things up and out of reach could lead to a fatal disaster, so you must stay vigilant.
Keep Medications and Supplements Inaccessible
Medications are among the top 10 pet poisoning causes. All human medications and supplements are potentially risky to pets, but specifically watch for risk from the following types of medication:
- NSAIDS - Anti-inflammatory drugs, like Advil and Aleve, can cause indigestion, stomach ulcers and kidney failure. These should never be given to pets, and if they are accidentally ingested, call your veterinarian.
- Antidepressants - Antidepressant medications are the cause of the highest number of calls to Pet Poison Helpline, a poison control resource for pet owners. These medications can cause neurological problems in pets.
- Acetaminophen - Acetaminophen is found in Tylenol and many cough medications. This can cause dry ye and liver failure, and even just one tablet can be fatal.
- Amphetamine - This drug, used for ADHD symptoms, can cause life-threatening heart and neurological problems.
If your pet ingests one of these, call your vet immediately.
Keep Toiletries out of Reach
While not quite as harmful as medications, toiletries in your bathroom are a risk for your pet. It's best to keep them out of reach and the lids on tight so your pet does not spill or ingest them.
It's common to leave bleach and other cleaning supplies in the bathroom, but these are a hazard for your pet. While most families will not leave their chemicals within reach, don't forget about the toilet brush, which looks like a tantalizing toy and can carry chemical residue.
The Glorious Bowl
There's no secret that pets, dogs and cats alike, enjoy a drink out of the toilet, but this should not be allowed. Keep the kid closed to keep your pet out. Unfortunately, the chemicals you use in the toilet are going to leave residue behind, and this can be poisonous to your pet, not to mention the fact that residue from human waste is probably in the toilet as well. If you can't keep your pet out of the bowl, then refrain from using any cleaning product that cleans with every flush, and therefore remains in the water at all times.
Pet Safety in Living Areas
Living areas pose many of the same risks as bedrooms. You will need to watch for tall furniture, cords and heavy items that could fall on your pet. In addition, watch for these pet risks:
Technically, appliances aren't in your living area, but your laundry room gets plenty of use and could be considered part of your home's living areas. If you have a small pet that likes to curl up in warm spaces, the dryer is quite tempting. Make sure you don't accidentally harm or trap your cat by keeping the dryer door closed when you are not actively taking clothes in and out.
Many common house plants, including seasonal plants like Easter lilies and Poinsettias, are dangerous if consumed by pets. Check this list of toxic house plants, and avoid bringing these into your home.
Pet Safety in the Yard and Garage
If your pet is a pet that goes outside, or if you have a pet who has a tendency to sneak outdoors even when not allowed, you need to make sure your yard is a safe place. Here are some ways you an improve the safety of your outdoor living and playing space. In addition, your garage needs to be carefully attended in order to avoid problems and risk.
Keep the Pet Contained
If your pet is allowed outdoors, or even encouraged to go outdoors, make sure he is properly contained. A fence or a proven leash system is a necessity. If you use an electronic fence, make sure you are in the yard with your pet. It's always possible for a pet to pass over the electronic boarder when something particularly tempting walks or drives by. Keep in mind that pets should not be left unattended outdoors for hours on end, because they could be stolen or dig out of the yard.
For cats, you need to be careful about fenced yards. It's too easy for a cat to climb a fence and escape. Make sure you are in the yard with the cat if your cat will go outdoors.
Look for Poisonous Plants
Plants can be toxic to pets, and pets do have a tendency to nibble on plants in the yard. Check this list from the Humane Society that lists all potentially fatal plants, and purge your yard from them.
Use Caution with Garage Chemicals
The garage may seem like a great place to contain your pets when you're gone, but be careful. Many chemicals used in the garage are highly toxic. Antifreeze, in particular, is deadly to pets, and for some reason they seem to be drawn to it. Even if the chemicals themselves are up and out of reach, you have to be cautious about anything that has leaked out of your car onto the floor of your garage. The best option is to keep your pets behind a barrier so they can't get into these chemicals.
Pets are more susceptible to temperature than you might think. If it's too hot or too cold, they are at risk. Yes, they have a fur coat, but that doesn't mean they should be left outdoors for an extended period of time in the dead of winter without adequate shelter. Bring them in when it's hot or cold! Remember that the garage, if it's not heated, may not be much warmer or cooler than the outdoors, and in fact in the summer can be even hotter than the outdoors.
Grill and Fire Pit
If you have an outdoor fire pit or grill, remember that they are highly risky for pets. Long after you are done using them, they will contain embers that could burn your pet or sparks that could cause a serious fire. To make this even worse, the smell of the grill is tempting to pets. If you are going to grill in your yard, watch your pet carefully.
Pet Handling Safety Tips
In addition to making your home safe for your pet, you should learn how to handle your pet safely to avoid injury, both to yourself and to your pet. Here are some pet handling tips to teach your family:
- Don't carry your pet around for long periods of time. Most pets don't like being carried, and small children can drop pets.
- Learn signs of distress, and leave a pet alone if they are showing that they are scared or frustrated.
- Do not drop pets from high areas. Cats may "always land on their feet," but they can still fracture a leg.
- Give your pet a safe place to go for a break from time to time. A crate or bed that is "off limits" to human family members gives your pet a place to reset when needed.
Pet-Specific Safety Considerations
While some pet safety tips are universal, others are more specific to different types of pets. What is important to remember for your dog, for instance, may not apply to your cat. Here are some pet-specific tips to keep in mind as you focus on making your home as safe as possible for the pets in it.
To keep fish safe, make sure you have a large enough habitat, feed them and keep their water clean. Don't forget to dechlorinate the water!
The biggest risk to birds happens when they are let out of their cage. If the bird's wings aren't clipped, either keep it caged in a cage large enough for adequate excercise, or only let it out in a contained room that is safe for birds. Also, make sure the area around the bird is kept at a consistent temperature. Always turn off ceiling fans and cover windows when giving birds the chance to fly.
Reptiles and Amphibians
Giving a reptile or amphibian the proper living environment is an important part of keeping your pet safe and healthy. Also, with these types of pets, only take them out of the habitat when you can handle them in a controlled environment, so they don't slip into a couch or under a bed and out of sight.
Dogs are at the highest risk for ingested hazards, because they will eat anything and everything. Also, dogs have a tendency to try to escape to chase a cat or squirrel. Pay close attention to toxic foods, choking hazards and escape risks with a dog.
Cats are natural born climbers. This makes falling risks and escape over fences one of the highest risks for cats. Keep these risks at bay with proper safety protocols.
Keep Your Pet Safe During Natural Disasters
While natural disasters in Texas are less common than other parts of the country, you still need to be prepared. Having a disaster plan will ensure your pet is not lost or killed when tragedy strikes. Start by making sure that your pet is properly tagged, even microchipped if possible, to ensure he will get back to you in a disaster. With the tag, include your cell phone number and, if possible, the number of a family member you trust. That will ensure your pet eventually makes his way back to you. Otherwise, keep these tips in mind for specific natural disasters.
Hurricanes and Floods
If a hurricane or flood hits the area, be prepared with a disaster kit that includes pet products and food. If you will evacuate, take your pet with you. If you are going to ride out the storm or flood at home, have your pet in a carrier or on a leash at all times, in case you have an emergency evacuation. Keeping your pet contained will also prevent her from bolting out of fear. It's best to secure your pet before a storm hits to prevent tragedy. Always follow evacuation requests form the government.
While technically not a natural disaster, a fire can be devastating, and can lead to fatalities for your pets. If your home is on fire, get yourself and your family to safety, and allow the emergency personnel to take care of your animals, unless you can quickly and safely grab your pets. Do not remain in a burning building searching for pets.
You can alert your firefighters to your pets with the ASPCA's Animal Inside sticker on your door. Include the number of pets on the sticker, which is available for free from the ASPCA. Leave leashes near the door so the firefighters can use them in the event of a fire. Consider installing a pet door that your pets can use in the event of a fire, because your pet's instinct will be to flee the property. Remember, if your pet is able to get outside, he will take the opportunity, so don't waste time searching for your pet when you could be getting yourself to safety.
If you are experiencing an earthquake, do not attempt to restrain a pet. Many pets will bite or scratch out of instinct when they sense a disaster coming. If your pet is leashed during an earthquake, hold the leash, but otherwise allow your pet to find a safe place of his or her own. If your pet is in a carrier or crate, leave them contained as that is the safest place to prevent injury due to falling debris.
Animals can sense earthquakes coming, and they have an instinct to run and find a safe place to hide. If you are at home, allow your pet to do this. Keep your safety as your first priority, and trust that your pet knows what to do. Have your pet chipped or tagged so you can get him back should the earthquake be serious and your pet get out during it.
Resources for Texas Pet Owners
If you are a pet owner in Texas, there are number of resources available for you to ensure your pets are safe and healthy. Here are some state or national programs and organizations that might be helpful.
Resources for Dallas-Area Pet Owners
If you have a pet, knowing where and how to get help and support is important. Here are some local organizations that have help for pet Dallas area owners.
Resources for Austin-Area Pet Owners
For pet owners in the Austin area, the following organizations are available to help and support.
Keeping your pet safe at home is not hard, if you give the right attention to how your home is set up. With a little bit of time and energy now, you can have a safe place for your entire family, including yore pets, to live and thrive.