The first thing you need to do when pet proofing your home is to assess all potential dangers. Do you have loose electrical cords, medicines, cosmetics, vitamins, household cleaners or other hazards that your pet could easily get into? Cover all electrical outlets and tape down any loose electrical cords so they won't become a chew toy temptation. Secure all hazardous items in cabinets with childproof locks.
We know it's hard not to share your favorite treats with Fido, but feeding pets people food puts pets at risk for obesity. Plus, certain human foods are actually toxic or can cause dangerous obstructions in pets. "During the holidays, most animal-related emergency room visits are due to their eating something inappropriate," says Lorraine Corriveau, a wellness veterinarian in the School of Veterinary Medicine. "Some foods cause upset stomachs, some are poisonous, and some can cause life-threatening obstructions." Chocolate, onions, grapes, raisins, coffee grounds, macadamia nuts, sugar substitutes and chicken bones are some of the worst offenders. Keep your trash in a secure location where your pets cannot easily forage while you are not at home.
It would never occur to you to snack on your houseplants in a pinch, but your pooch has other plans. Common toxic houseplants include amaryllis, azalea, caladium, Easter lily, day lily, lily of the valley, peace lily, golden pothos, mistletoe, oleander and philodendron. If you believe you pet has ingested a poisonous substance of any kind, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is your best resource for any animal poison-related emergency. Call (888) 426-4435, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Taking your pets in the car with you when you run errands is fun, but be careful when the summer heat hits. Heat stroke is a serious health concern. If you leave your pet unattended in the car while you run into the store, temperatures can rise to fatal levels faster than you could ever imagine. If the temperature outside is 90 degrees, the temperature inside your car can rise to 160 degrees in just five minutes. To avoid exposing your pets to the heat, keep your animals inside your home during the summer months. Take them for walks outside in the cool early morning or evenings. And never leave them in a car unattended.
Just like children, dogs need to be socialized to become happy, healthy, respectful and obedient members of any family. Formal obedience training also can prevent many accidents and injuries. Your companion will learn to follow directions, respect boundaries and be gentle around children and other animals. You will feel safe leaving your pet outdoors knowing that he will not try to run away. Scott Dunmore, obedience trainer and owner of 3 Dogs Running, explains why obedience training is a wise investment: "It makes for a much healthier and balanced relationship with your dog."
Even responsible pet owners lose their pets sometimes. So just in case, make sure your pet is wearing proper identification on a durable ID tag at all times so that whoever finds him can return him safe and sound. You might also invest in a collar with an owner alert service to ensure the fast recovery of your companion.
Mr. Fluffykins isn't just your housecat; he's family. No one wants to think about loved ones getting sick, but it is important to be prepared. Keep a pet emergency kit on hand at all times. Know how to read the signs if your pet becomes ill. Learn basic pet first aid, such as how to stop bleeding, perform rescue breathing and treat lacerations. You can learn more about pet first aid at RedCross.org.
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