Common Dangers for Cats and Dogs
Like children, animal companions can sometimes put their health in danger by coming in contact with the potential poisons and hazards found in a typical household. In addition, you may inadvertently endanger your animal. Some of the risks are obvious, such as toxic chemicals, while you may find others more surprising. Take the same precautions with a cat or dog that you would with a small child. In case of emergency, be sure to have the contact information for your veterinarian and also for the nearest 24-hour veterinary clinic in a quickly accessible location. If you leave your animal in the care of someone else while you are away, make sure they have an emergency number to call.
Household Cleaning Products
Keep your cat or dog away when cleaning. If you must use bleach or other toxic cleansers, dilute them before using and be sure to rinse thoroughly. Never use Lysol, the fumes of which can be fatal to cats. Your safest option would be to switch to a non-toxic, natural cleaner. Several are on the market, and most are not tested on animals. Or you can use the following:
If paint or tar gets on your cat or dog, never try to remove it with turpentine or kerosene, which will burn the animal's skin. Use vegetable oil or margarine instead, which you can then wash off with mild soap and water.
Pesticides and Herbicides/Fungicides
Pesticides and herbicides or fungicides are poisons, and they can be toxic to cats and dogs.
Pain killers, cold medicines, specific cancer drugs, antidepressants, diet pills, and different ointments and creams can all be toxic and potentially fatal to cats and dogs. Examples are paracetamol/acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil). Even a small amount of ordinary aspirin can kill a cat. Keep medicine containers in a secure location, and be careful to pick up any pills dropped on the floor.
The most commonly used chemical in antifreeze, ethylene glycol, is extremely toxic to both cats and dogs. Ingesting even a very small amount can cause severe kidney damage. Many animals are attracted to the sweet taste of ethylene glycol. Clean up antifreeze spills immediately and check your car for leaks often. Antifreeze/coolant products containing propylene glycol are less toxic.
Plants and Foods Toxic to Animals
Hundreds of plants produce enough toxins to poison a cat or a dog. Even grass can be dangerous if it has been treated with chemicals. Cats enjoy nibbling on catnip or oat grass, and both are safe. Some ordinary foods also can be poisonous to cats or dogs.
Hot Weather Dangers
Freezing Weather Dangers
Small Objects — Danger of Choking
Unfortunately, cats and dogs swallowing small foreign objects is a fairly common and sometimes fatal event, which probably could have been prevented. Any object which can pose a choking hazard, or which can cause obstruction or laceration of the stomach or intestines, should be kept securely out of reach. Here are just a few examples:
String, Yarn, Thread, and Floss
If your cat or dog swallows a stringy foreign body, take him to the vet immediately. Be especially careful of dental floss because it has a sweet smell and a dog will lick it up. Strings will not move through the digestive system and can cut through the intestines or esophagus. Sometimes the intestines will bunch up around the string. If your cat or dog has symptoms of intestinal obstruction, such as persistent vomiting and anorexia, it might be necessary to do exploratory surgery to find and remove the swallowed string, yarn, or thread. Keep these objects out of your cat or dog's reach.
Dangling Curtain Cords
Many cats and puppies love to play with these dangling string cords. However, a curtain cord can pose a threat. If the cord gets caught around the animal's neck, it will strangle her. Make sure to tie up your hanging cords and hide them from view.
Cover up or hide electrical cords. Cats have a tendency to play with them, which can pull down lamps or other appliances. Chewing or playing with an electric cord may result in electric shock. Never touch an animal who is touching an exposed electric wire. Turn off the current and then use a dry stick to get the cat or dog away from the wire. Get veterinary help as fast as possible.
While many cats and puppies love playing in large bags, never allow your animal companion to play with plastic bags. They pose the same danger of suffocation to a small animal as they do to a child. A paper bag is fine — but remember to check inside the bag before moving it!
Washing Machine and Dryer
These machines can be especially dangerous for cats, who enjoy crawling into small spaces. Keep the door to the washing machine and dryer closed at all times. Before doing your laundry, check the machine to make sure your cat has not climbed in.
Screens, Doors, and Windows
A cat or dog can easily knock a loose screen off a window. Whether an animal falls out of a dangerously high upper-story window, jumps out of the ground-floor window, or runs out the door, the result could be devastating. So be sure all your screens and windows are secured, and remind others to keep doors and screen doors securely closed to prevent your companion animal from escaping.
Fireworks and Other Loud Noises
Many dogs become extremely fearful and distressed when they hear loud noises such as fireworks and thunder. Common reactions include hiding, shaking, and occasionally destructive behaviors like chewing through screen doors to escape. If they run away, they can become disoriented and unable to find their way home.
To lessen your dog's anxiety during a storm or fireworks:
Keeping a dog on a chain or rope for longer than a very brief period of time is mentally and physically dangerous for the dog. Dogs can become entangled or even hang themselves. It is also dangerous for others. Tethered dogs are far more likely to bite people than are other dogs.
Tethering is considered so inhumane that in August 2005, the City of Los Angeles, California, banned it. The California law has a provision that you can tether your dog if you are completing a temporary task, such as repairing your fence, but it also is very specific about how to tether your dog even temporarily. For example, the length of the rope or chain must be at least three times the length of the dog and it must be attached to a body harness, not a collar; it must be free from the possibility of entanglement; and the dog must have access to water, and, if necessary, to shelter.
Riding in the Back of a Pickup Truck
A dog who rides in the open bed of a pickup truck is in danger. If the driver hits a bump, swerves to avoid an obstacle, or brakes suddenly, the dog could be thrown from the truck. If the fall doesn't injure or kill the dog, it is possible that another car will. Simply tying the dog to the truck bed is not enough. Ropes or leashes could strangle the dog if he is jolted out of the truck. Because of this danger, some states in the U.S. are considering legislation to ban the transport of dogs in the back of open pickup trucks.
Periodically, a specific brand of a particular pet product is discovered to be dangerous. When this happens, announcements are made in the press. Be alert for such news items.