Pets are a big responsibility. We immediately think about making sure they are fed, well cared for, and safe from major harm; but what about the hidden dangers that lurk in our homes, cars, parks and other locations?
Food Safety for Pets
One of the first things that we tend to overlook is pet food. Is it safe? Are we preparing it properly? Just like us, our animals can become sick from consuming expired or contaminated food. However, there are simple steps that we can take to avoid mishaps:
- Always inspect food packaging for damage and check expiration dates.
- Wash your hands before handing pet food.
- Make sure that all food bowls and serving utensils are washed with warm water for each use.
- Throw away uneaten food before it goes bad.
- Store dry food in a cool and dry location.
- Refrigerate or throw away leftover wet food.
- If feeding your pet raw food, make sure to follow the same FDA recommended safety procedures that you would with your own food.
To learn more, visit:
- University of Wisconsin: Safe handing tips for pet foods and treats
- FoodSafety.gov: Pet food
- FDA: Get the facts! Raw pet food diets can be dangerous to you and your pet
Pet Safety in Your Home
Home is generally a safe place for us, but there are still dangers for our pets.
- Toys: Not all toys are pet-safe. Those containing stuffing, string, or other eating and choking hazards should be avoided.
- Poisonous plants: Many common flowers and holiday plants are poisonous for animals.
- Foods: Chocolate can be fatal for dogs, and milk can cause dangerous diarrhea in cats.
- String: If eaten, string can quickly tangle in intestines and cause a medical emergency.
- Unstable furniture: A shelf may seem secure enough for resting books and other items, but can it handle being climbed by an active cat?
To learn about other potential dangers, visit:
- Oklahoma State University: Pet fire safety
- City of Boston: Keeping your pet healthy and safe
- Pet MD: Poisonous plants
Pet Safety Outdoors
The outdoors is a natural place to be for dogs (and many cats), but that doesn’t mean that it is without peril.
In the backyard:
- Make sure that fences are in good condition and do not have spaces that can be crawled under.
- Think twice before leaving a dog unsupervised on a chain or tether. They are potential choking hazards.
- Check that gates are closed securely.
- Avoid having poisonous plants in your landscaping.
- Always have water available to avoid dehydration.
- Be aware of weather extremes. Most dog houses cannot adequately insulate against extreme temperatures.
- Make sure that your animal is properly tagged and/or microchipped to meet local laws and to make identification possible if they manage to get away from you.
- Be aware of your surroundings, including improperly supervised pets.
- Invest in dog training school. An easier to manage pet will make time outdoors safer and more enjoyable.
- Keep up to date on pet vaccinations, flea treatments, and worming.
- Many dog parks have different small and large pet areas. Make sure to stay in the appropriate area!
For more information, visit:
- Paw Rescue: Backyard dogs
- Humane Society: Keeping your pets safe
- Vet Street: Play it safe and be polite. Dog park rules you should never break.
Pet Safety when Traveling
When bringing your pet with you, whether it’s for a trip to the vet or a family vacation, there are a few things to consider.
- Keep your pet well secured in a crate, with a harness, or with another viable option.
- Do not let your pet loose in the vehicle. They can become a distraction or driving obstruction.
- Do not leave animals in a car unattended. Temperatures can change very quickly in a vehicle.
- If going a distance, bring rabies vaccine and other up to date veterinary records as required for any states or countries that you will be going to.
- Stop frequently to allow animals to stretch and relieve themselves.
Using public transportation:
- Check the rules and make sure that animals are allowed on any buses, planes, boats, trains or other forms of transportation that you intend to use. For flights, you will have to notify the airline ahead of time if you are flying with a pet.
- If flying, make sure that your pet carrier or kennel conforms to guidelines.
- As with travel by car, bring any required documents that may be needed to transport your pet over state or international borders. For international trips, a quick trip to the veterinarian may be required for any last-minute requirements, such as worming, within 48 hours of travel.
- Keep your pet secure on a lead or in a carrier. A muzzle may be required in certain situations.
- Make sure any hotels are pet friendly and notify them ahead of time that you will be bringing an animal.
- Always inform the hotel that you have an animal.
- Learn about where you can safely walk pets nearby.
- If leaving a pet alone in a room, always place a do not disturb sign on the door so that the cleaning staff do not accidentally let them loose.
For more information, visit:
- WebMD: 10 tips for safe car travel with your pet
- Kansas State University: On the go with Fido or Fluffy: Kansas State University veterinarian has tips for traveling with pets
- Transportation.gov: Plane talk. Traveling animals.
Seasonal Pet Safety
The holidays can be a special time for all family members, even the furry ones. There are just a few extra precautions that should be taken to make sure that even our four-legged family members have a safe holiday.
- Place your Christmas tree is a spot where it is unlikely to draw attention or be accessible to climbing and chewing pets.
- Keep tinsel well out of reach of pets. If eaten, it can block intestines.
- Avoid placing lights where they can be chewed on or reached.
- Holly, mistletoe, and poinsettia are all poisonous if eaten. Consider safer alternative decorations.
- Keep tape, ribbon, and other gift wrapping supplies away from pets.
- Make sure that the candy bowl is out of reach. Many treats can be toxic to animals.
- Keep decorations, especially ones with candles, out of reach of pets.
- Don’t go overboard with pet costumes. Some can restrict movement or breathing and cause unnecessary stress.
- Have a secure spot for your pet during Halloween so that they cannot escape through the front door or get overstimulated by visitors.
- Have your pet microchipped or make sure they are wearing a collar with tags.
Summer and winter specific hazards:
Extreme weather can be just as detrimental to our pets as it can be to us. Always make sure that your furry friends have an accessible place to escape from both the sun and cold. If the weather outside isn’t fit for you, then chances are it isn’t good for them either.
To learn more, visit:
- ASPCA: Halloween safety tips
- Texas A&M University: Holiday hazards for pets
- City of Austin: Stay safe. Summer heat.
- AVMA: Cold weather pet safety
Pet Safety During a Natural Disaster
Do you have a plan for where to bring the family during a natural disaster? Does it include your pet? When making plans, always make sure to include a plan for the furry members of your family as well.
Things to consider:
- Is there someone you can rely on to watch your pet if you cannot?
- If you pet is on medication, do you have enough of an emergency supply to make it through several days if needed?
- Does your pet have their own emergency bag with food, water, medication, and their veterinary documents including a list of their current vaccines?
- Do your planned emergency accommodations allow pets?
- Is there a kennel or other facility that can accept your pet in an emergency if you cannot provide them with a safe place? Does your pet meet their vaccine and other health requirements?
To learn more, see:
- Ready.gov: Animals
- Yavapai College: Pet safety checklist
- University of Illinois: Natural disasters. Plan ahead for animals’ safety.
- The Red Cross: Pets
Pet Safety Around Children
Kids and animals can be the best of friends, but there are still some potentially serious risks when pairing the two together.
- Teach children how to act around the pet to avoid unnecessary incidents. When interacting with friendly animals, they should learn to:
- Approach animals slowly
- Avoid violence
- Extend a hand slowly for sniffing
- Respond to pet body language and know when to leave them alone versus when to proceed
- Avoid petting animal’s faces or inside of their ears
- Do not leave small children or babies alone with an animal, even if it is a familiar family pet.
To learn more, visit:
- Eastern Florida State College: Teaching kids caring and safe ways with pets
- CDC: Infants and young children. Animal safety tips.
- Animal League: Teaching children pet safety rules