Every pet has three basic needs: a safe place to live, a healthy diet and lots of love. Sounds simple – especially the lots of love part, but it takes some careful thought to provide the first two. June is pet safety month and we would like to offer some helpful hints to keep in mind when caring for your companion. Only Natural Pet Store is the perfect place to find information about animal safety for your cat or dog!
Keeping our companions safe is typically common sense, but also requires being informed about how many household items or substances may pose potential dangers to our furry friends. Here are a few things all pet guardians should know:
Indoor Cleaning and Air Pollution
We don’t often think about the air in our homes as a source of toxins, but for our companions’ sake it is important to examine our home from a “nose to the ground” point of view. Chemicals in many cleaning products can be highly toxic, especially floor cleaners. Since your companion’s nose is continually close to the floor along with all four paws coming in contact with any residue, then their body is likely having to detoxify every time you clean the floor – which places a strain on their organ systems. Natural alternatives are readily available, and simple home-made products with inexpensive ingredients like baking soda, vinegar and borax clean as well as most commercial products (see links below for more information). Plug-in air fresheners are popular with some folks to help cover up that “pet” smell–but they are a constant source of petrochemicals in the air our companions breathe. Choosing more natural cleaning products and air fresheners will go a long way to limiting the toxins your companion has to deal with on a daily basis. See our Non-toxic Stain and Odor Control products.
Many a dog owner has been known to affectionately refer to their companion as “the four-legged garbage disposal” as they will happily eat most anything we are eating. (Most cats tend to be a bit more discriminating, thankfully). Some of our favorite foods, however, can be toxic to our companions. It is important to keep these foods in places that are inaccessible to your pet. Following is a partial list of fare that can be toxic to your companion and should be kept out of reach:
- grapes & raisins
- coffee grounds
- yeast dough
- macadamia nuts
- xylitol – a sweetener found in chewing gum, candy and breath fresheners
Don’t forget to throw away meat wrappers and packaging immediately – and keep the trash in a latched cabinet or container with a pet-proof lid. Keep in mind that it takes a lot less to make a little dog sick, so those with smaller companions must be most attentive to safety.
Medications & Vitamins
Pills dropped on the floor are fair game for the cat – they move like prey when you bat at them! Keep medications and vitamins safely stored – especially your companion’s vitamins since they are likely flavored and smell enticing. Our customer service department receives a call or two a month about pets that have eaten more than their daily allowance of a vitamin or supplement that was left out on the counter or in a lower cabinet that the animal could open. If your dog or cat does ingest human medication or supplements, contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA poison control center right away at the number listed below. Many human medications can be highly toxic to animals even in small doses. If your companion manages to consume more than the usual dose of their own vitamins or supplements, you will want to determine just how much they ate. If just a few extra vitamins or joint support tablets are missing, they may just have a bit of a stomach ache and be a little extra thirsty – so keep an eye on them and provide lots of fresh water. If, however, they manage to eat the whole container; contact your veterinarian.
Plants provide beauty and fresh air to our indoor spaces. Your puppy or kitten may see houseplants as toys or an extra snack, but this can prove dangerous depending on the plant. Learn which plants are potentially toxic and keep them high out of reach. Some toxic houseplants include;
- Creeping Charlie
- Easter Lily
- Golden Pothos
- Peace Lily
(See links at the bottom of the page for a more complete list and further information)
For those companions who like to graze try the Kitty’s Garden.
Insecticides and rodenticides must be used with extreme caution in or around a household with pets. Baits or traps must be located in areas totally inaccessible to your companion. Bug sprays and baits should be used with extreme caution and the area treated should be off limits to your pet for at least several days. Read product labels carefully for toxicity information. Cats, and some dogs, love to hunt and eat bugs and rodents, so be sure they cannot come into contact with bugs or mice that have been poisoned.
Mothballs are very toxic to dogs and cats (and people for that matter). Cats love to jump in open drawers or storage boxes, so use cedar paper or other moth deterrents instead.
Flea control products, even those designed to use on and around animals, can be toxic to our companions over time. There are natural alternatives that work as well or better than conventional chemical pesticide based products. Please see the article The Natural Approach to Flea Control.
Many of us tend to store a variety of chemicals and yard products in the garage. One of the most dangerous of those is antifreeze. Antifreeze tastes sweet and is attractive to pets, but is highly toxic even in small amounts. With warmer temperatures approaching, be sure to watch for leaks from overheated cars. If you see a bright green liquid dripping from the car, clean it up immediately. Better yet, use the safer alternative antifreeze containing propylene glycol (instead of ethylene glycol as in traditional antifreeze).
If you keep yard and garden products in the garage, be sure they are up high on the shelves or in plastic bins with lids. Bins help keep the fumes from fertilizers and other products contained as well. Paints, paint thinners, glues and solvents stored in the garage should be kept away from pets as well – especially when being used. Spills must be addressed immediately to insure a dog or cat does not step in a paint or solvent – many solvents will burn the skin and paws very quickly, and paints will surely be licked off and ingested.
The yard is another place to focus on the elimination of toxic exposure for our companions. The ingredients in herbicides, insecticides and soil amendments can be toxic to both pets and children. Chemical fertilizers and other lawn products should be eliminated. There are abundant alternatives available now that are organic and natural and will not add to the burden on our companions’ overtaxed systems. Even organic alternatives need to be used carefully, however. Bone meal, for instance, is a natural source of phosphorus and can be appealing to some dogs. They won’t necessarily lick enough off the ground to make themselves sick, but the box or bag needs to be stored safely out of Fido’s reach. Always read labels carefully, even on more natural products, to make sure you understand exactly what is in the product and if any precautions are necessary around children or pets. Cats are fastidious groomers and after walking across a treated lawn or yard area will surely lick their paws. It may be necessary to limit access to areas of the yard that need to be treated with products that can pose a risk to their health.
Many dogs love to dig in and investigate new mulch and garden areas. Choose your mulch carefully: cocoa bean mulch is a byproduct of chocolate manufacturing and contains the same substances as chocolate that are dangerous for dogs: caffeine and theobromine. Cocoa bean mulch has a lovely rich color and smells great when spreading it around the garden, but it’s not the right choice for a yard with a pooch that likes to dig and sample her surroundings.
The plants in your yard may also pose a threat to a dog or cat who likes to “graze” and taste everything – typically more of a problem with puppies and kittens than older animals. A few landscape plants that are toxic to animals include yew, wild black cherry, azalea, rhododendron, hydrangea, daphne, nandina, oleander, English ivy, daffodil, tulip, lily of the valley, foxglove, hyacinth, rhubarb and castor bean. (See links below for further information). If these are already a part of your yard and you are bringing home a new companion, it is best to fence them off until those tasting and chewing urges subside.
Compost piles and worm bins are quite popular with eco-minded gardeners, but be sure they are inaccessible to your dog who might find the decaying leftovers tantalizing. Dogs who sample the compost pile will likely vomit and/or have diarrhea and can become dehydrated. If your companion is prone to “sampling” garbage, compost or anything else he finds on the ground, we recommend keeping a remedy or two handy to help him recover. Here are a few of our favorites: Fast Balance, Quick Relief, HomeoPet Digestive Upsets, or Love My Pet Tummy-Ease.
Heat stroke is an emergency that requires immediate care. With summer fast approaching and temperatures rising take all precautions to prevent heat stroke and know the signs so you can treat it quickly.
The best precaution is to leave your dog home on sunny or hot days. On an 85 degree day, the temperature inside your car, even with the windows open a bit, will climb to 102 degrees in 10 minutes! After half an hour, it will go up to 120 degrees or even higher! On a 90 degree day, temps in that car can top 160 degrees faster than you can walk around the block. Even if your dog has separation anxiety when you leave her at home, she is still safer there than in your car. Give her some calming herbs or remedies and leave her where she will be cool.
Symptoms of heat stroke:
- Rapid panting
- Bright red tongue
- Gums will be red at first, then pale as heat stroke progresses
- Thick, sticky saliva, followed by a dry mouth as heat stroke progresses
- Exhaustion OR agitation
What to do:
- Get the animal in the shade immediately – or into an air conditioned building.
- Wet him with cool water (not too cold – you don’t want to lower the body temperature too rapidly or too far). Lower his body temperature gradually using cool water and a fan.
- Dry him and wrap in towels while you drive to the nearest emergency veterinary clinic – even if he appears to be recovering he may need subcutaneous fluids to prevent further complications such as shock, respiratory distress, kidney failure or heart problems.
When it is cool enough to take your friend with you in the car, be sure to buckle her up! You may be a very safe driver, but can you say the same about everyone else on the road? Pets left unrestrained can be tossed across the car, or worse, out of the car. Pets are safer in seat belts or crates.
Safe & Healthy Food
Only Natural Pet Store specializes in top quality pet food. Please see our articles about Evaluating Canned and Dry Food and What You Need to Know About Your Pet’s Food.
Following are some additional resources for keeping your pets safe and happy:
Safer yard and garden supplies: Gardens Alive Online and Catalog Store
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center 1-888-426-4435; As the premier animal poison control center in North America, the APCC is your best resource for any animal poison-related emergency, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you think that your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, make the call that can make all the difference: (888) 426-4435. A $55 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card. Be prepared to state your pet’s breed, age, weight and any symptoms. Keep the product container or plant sample with you to assist in identification so the appropriate treatment recommendations can be made.
Article about pet first aid: When is it Time to See the Vet?