One of the things we love most about our pets is their inquisitive nature. Dogs and cats have endless curiosity, and nothing is cuter than a puppy investigating the outdoors for the first time, or a kitten pouncing on your blanket-covered feet. But, that same endearing quality can land your pet in a heap of trouble if they check out something toxic or dangerous. Our Animal Internal Medicine and Specialty Services team treats plenty of pets with injuries and toxicities that result from their unabashed curiosity. Ensuring your pet’s safety is a big responsibility, and you need to be their voice of reason, and prevent them from making a life-threatening mistake. In time for National Poison Prevention Week in March, we outline potential safety hazards in each part of your home to help you recognize disasters in the making, and take measures to keep your pet safe.

Kitchen hazards for pets

As you might imagine, your kitchen likely contains many pet hazards and toxins, including:

  • Toxic foods — Many human foods can be toxic to pets who snatch them from the table or gobble up scraps that hit the floor. Keep your pet out of the kitchen when you are cooking, and during dinner, so they do not accidentally ingest one of these toxic foods:
    • Onions, garlic, shallots, and chives
    • Chocolate
    • Grapes and raisins
    • Xylitol, a sugar substitute found in some foods
    • Raw yeast dough
    • Macadamia nuts
    • Alcohol

Keep in mind that you may not see any signs immediately after your pet ingests a toxic food. Always consult your family veterinarian or our emergency team if you believe your pet has eaten any amount of a toxic food. 

  • High-fat foods — High-fat foods are not toxic, but can cause your pet to develop life-threatening pancreatitis. Because your pet’s body is not used to digesting large fat quantities, their pancreas may release an overabundance of fat-digesting enzymes if they eat meat trimmings, buttery mashed potatoes, or other fatty foods. Many pets dig these tempting leftovers out of the trash, so ensure your kitchen trash bin is secured behind a pantry door or in a cupboard, and keep all outdoor trash cans covered.
  • Hot surfaces and foods — Pets can easily be burned by spilled hot food, or hot surfaces, which is another reason to keep them out of the kitchen while you are cooking. If your dog trips you while you are carrying a pan of boiling water, they—and you—may be burned if the water spills. Or, your counter-surfing cat may get burned if they venture too close to the hot stove.
  • Sharp kitchen utensils — Your dog may not be able to resist your steak knife dripping with meat juice, and may lick the sharp blade and cut their mouth. Although infrequent, dogs have been known to swallow entire knives and require emergency surgery. 
  • Toxic plants — Houseplants grace many sunny kitchen windows, and fresh bouquets brighten many kitchen and dining room tables. Unfortunately, some common plant varieties are toxic to pets. Cats, in particular, are attracted to live plants, and may eat the leaves or flowers. Avoid arrangements and planters with these toxic plant varieties:
    • Lilies
    • Sago palm
    • Tulips
    • Oleander
    • Kalanchoe
    • Cyclamen
    • Amaryllis
    • Azalea
    • Pothos

Lilies are especially toxic to cats, and ingestion of any plant part, including pollen, can cause deadly kidney failure. 

Bathroom hazards for pets

According to the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center, human medications are the most frequent cause of pet toxicity and can cause varied problems, from altered blood pressure to breathing difficulties, depending on the medication type ingested. Follow these tips to prevent your pet from accidental exposure:

  • Never leave medication on the bathroom counter or a bedside table where your pet can reach it.
  • Keep all medication bottles stored safely inside a medicine cabinet or closet.
  • Ask houseguests to store their medications out of reach, since pets may nose through their suitcases and bags. 

The cupboard below your bathroom sink may contain pet-toxic cleaning chemicals. Despite the chemicals’ caustic odor, many pets are curious about strong-smelling substances, and may chew the bottles and puncture them, spilling their contents. Install safety latches on low cupboard doors, as you would for a curious child.

Other bathroom hazards you should keep out of your pet’s reach include:

  • Sunscreen and diaper cream, which may contain zinc
  • Toothpaste, which contains fluoride and possibly xylitol
  • Chemical-treated toilet bowl water
  • Vitamins 

Bedroom hazards for pets

While bedrooms tend to be safe spaces for pets, keep an eye out for small items your pet may ingest. Kids’ bedrooms are generally messier, and pets can often find and eat small objects, such as hair bands, jewelry, legos, and small toys, that can lead to a gastrointestinal foreign body, and possible intestinal obstruction. Keep pets out of the room while your children are playing with small toys, and ensure the toys are picked up when playtime is over. 

Garage hazards for pets

Your garage may be full of pet hazards, from lawn and garden products, to heavy tools. Scan your garage shelves for the following items that may be hazardous to your pet:

  • Pesticides
  • Insecticides, especially metaldehyde-based snail and slug bait
  • Rodent bait
  • Antifreeze products containing ethylene glycol
  • Fertilizers
  • Paint 
  • Gasoline
  • Motor oil

Keep these items out of your pet’s reach by storing them on high shelves, or in a locked cabinet. 

To prevent injury, keep your pet out of the garage while you are working on home improvement projects. While trying to “help,” your pet may accidentally knock over a heavy tool on themselves, step on a sharp nail, or cut themselves on a saw blade. 

Now that you know the items that can harm your pet, pet-proof every room of your home to ensure they stay safe. If your pet’s curiosity gets the best of them, despite your efforts, contact us for immediate care, 24 hours per day, seven days per week.