Pet Safety Guidelines

While our hospitals are always open to help pets in need, we hope you won’t need to see us anytime soon! See our pet safety tips on how to avoid common hazards and protect your pet from serious illness or injury.

Household Toxins

Your home is a safe haven, but it likely harbors a variety of dangers for your pet that you might not even know about! If your household contains any of these common toxins, make sure you store them in a secure, out-of-reach place.

  • Antifreeze (ethylene glycol)
  • Prescription and non-prescription human drugs
  • Rodenticides, including rat poison
  • Insecticides
  • Cleaners and hygiene products
  • Various foods, including:
    • Grapes and raisins
    • Chocolate
    • Garlic and garlic powder
    • Onions and onion powder
    • Coffee and soft drinks
    • Sugar-free gum, candy, and baked goods, which might contain xylitol
    • Macadamia nuts
    • Alcohol
    • Yeast dough or spent brewer’s grains (used for home brewing)
    • Moldy food
    • Human vitamins and health supplements
  • Certain plants, such as lilies
  • Lawn and garden fertilizers
  • De-icing products, including sidewalk salt

Additional Household Pet Hazards

Other important hazards include:

  • Meat bones (can cause choking, blockage, and internal injury)
  • Toys with small, removable parts or stuffing
  • Dental floss, string, yarn, and rubber bands
dog chewing on bone

Tips for Helping Your Pet Handle Hot and Cold Temperatures

Extreme weather can pose a threat to your pet’s safety. Here’s what to do to keep them safe, healthy, and comfortable.

Heat Safety Tips

Heat Safety Tips

  • One of the most important rules for heat safety is to NEVER leave your dog or cat in the car, even if the car is parked in shade and has its windows rolled down.
  • Make sure your pet always has access to fresh water throughout the day, wherever they are. Check your pet’s water bowl frequently to keep it full.
  • Keep your pet out of the sun as much as possible. If you can, get pet-friendly sunblock and apply to the tips of their ears, the tip of their nose, and the skin around their lips.
  • Limit your dog’s walks to the early morning and evening, when the sun is low and the pavement has cooled.
  • Don’t push your dog to jog or run with you on hot days--stick to an easy stride.
  • Keep an eye on your pet if they’re outside. If they’re panting and drooling, bring them inside immediately and contact your veterinarian.
  • Never leave your pet unattended outdoors, even if they have access to shade and water. They can still succumb to the heat.
  • If your pet is brachycephalic, meaning they have a shortened muzzle (like Pugs, Bulldogs, Boxers, and Persian cats), they will be more vulnerable to the heat and less able to keep cool. Make sure they stay inside as much as possible on hot days.
  • Senior pets are also vulnerable to heat stroke, so don’t leave them outside for too long.
Symptoms of Heat Stroke in Dogs

Symptoms of Heat Stroke in Dogs

Pets suffering from heat stroke typically show these signs. If you notice any of them in your pet, contact us immediately.

  • High fever
  • Warm, dry skin
  • Vomiting
  • Heavy panting
  • Drooling
  • Collapse
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Lethargic, disoriented

To safely lower your pet’s body temperature before bringing them to the vet, soak some towels in cool water (not icy cold) and place them on hairless areas (particularly under the legs). This is not a permanent solution, but it should give your pet relief before they receive treatment from a veterinarian.

Cold Weather Safety Tips

Cold Weather Safety Tips

Two of the biggest threats to your pet during the winter season are hypothermia and dehydration. Here’s how to prevent them:

  • Keep your pet indoors as much as possible and make sure they have plenty of food and fresh water.
  • Provide your pet with adequate shelter, including thick blankets and/or towels.
  • Make sure your pet is drinking enough--they usually drink less when it’s cold.
  • When your pet does venture outside, keep them protected with a coat in their size and boots for their paws.
  • Senior pets are more prone to arthritis and may be more vulnerable to pain and injury in winter, so take extra steps to keep them warm and safe.
  • Salt used for melting ice and snow can contain harmful chemicals. Don’t let your pet walk on or attempt to ingest this salt, which can cause burns and make them sick. Wipe down your pet’s feet before bringing them inside, or outfit them in boots to protect their paws while on walks.

Holiday Pet Safety Hazards

Pet emergencies are common during the holidays due to the many hazards present.

Christmas Hazards

Christmas Hazards

  • Decorations: All manner of holiday decorations, including tinsel, can be tempting playthings for your inquisitive dog or cat. Unfortunately, these items can cause serious health problems in pets, such as choking, internal injury, or even intestinal obstruction. Be mindful about what kind of decorations you set out, and make sure they’re placed where your pet can’t reach them.
  • Plants: Popular holiday plants, like evergreens, mistletoe, and Jerusalem cherry can be harmful to dogs and cats. Tree needles can cause internal injury, while drinking the tree water may cause vomiting and diarrhea. Toxicity is a major concern, especially with mistletoe, which can be deadly in rare cases. Fake trees are safer for pet-owning households, and toxic plants should not be used for decoration.
  • Electrical cords: With the abundance of lights indoors and outdoors, it’s more important than ever to protect your curious pet from chewing on the cords. Keep cords as short as possible, and inspect them for signs of fraying. Don’t let cords dangle where your pet can reach them or trip over them.
  • Candles: Candles can make your home look extra cozy and inviting, but they’re a serious fire hazard. Use artificial candles instead--they create a similar effect, and are completely safe!
  • Chocolate: Your pet shouldn’t be eating any chocolate, though the darker the chocolate, the more harmful it is. Keep all sweets out of your pet’s reach, including cakes, candies, cookies, and gum. If your pet does ingest any sweets, you should contact us right away.
Thanksgiving Dangers

Thanksgiving Dangers

Food is the biggest temptation--and the biggest risk for dogs and cats. Be especially careful with these particular foods:

  • Turkey bones: Turkey bones splinter easily into sharp fragments, which can get stuck in your pet’s throat or intestine. In addition to choking, bones can also cause injury to the intestine or create a blockage.
  • Turkey carcass: Parts of the carcass which may be under-cooked can infect your pet with Salmonella.
  • Fatty foods: Meats, gravy, potatoes, and other foods rich in fat can give your pet an upset stomach.
  • Baked goods: Baked treats, especially those that are store-bought, might contain xylitol, an ingredient used in sugar-free foods as a sweetener. Xylitol can be deadly if ingested, so call us immediately if you suspect your pet has consumed goods made with xylitol.
  • Leftovers in the trash: Some dogs and cats are notorious for getting into the trash. If your pet is one of them, make sure the trashcan lid is secured or immediately remove all filled trash bags to the outdoor garbage bin. Clear tables of any remaining scraps, too.
Halloween Safety Tips

Halloween Safety Tips

For all its fun, Halloween is also another opportunity for pets to get into trouble. To prevent a health emergency, we recommend:

  • Keeping all candy out of reach at all times--not just chocolate, but all sweets. Sugar-heavy foods can upset your pet’s stomach, and don’t forget about xylitol, a potentially deadly sweetener. In addition to the ingredients, candy wrappers, candy sticks, and any plastic parts that come with them can cause choking, obstruction, and internal injury, which can also be life-threatening.
  • Keeping any and all decorative lights as far away from your pet as possible--especially if they’re a puppy or kitten. Whether it's chewing on electrical cords or getting too close to candles, be smart about the lighting you use.
  • Leaving your pet at home instead of taking them tricking-or-treating.
  • Not letting your cat outdoors (if they like to go outdoors) on Halloween night. Cats, especially black cats, have been known to become targets for pranks, and this could put them in danger.
  • Making sure that your dog’s ID tags are current and reflect accurate information. It’s not unheard-of for dogs (and cats) to go missing on Halloween, with front doors being opened and closed and so many people milling about in the neighborhood. We also suggest having your pet microchipped, which can give them a better chance of being found if they do go missing.
  • Some pets tolerate costumes well, while others do not. If your pet is in the latter camp, we’d recommend foregoing the costume altogether. On the other hand, if they tolerate it, make sure to keep an eye on them and see that they don’t chew on it and potentially ingest any small, dangerous parts. Try finding a costume that doesn’t have any small, easy-to-remove pieces.

Nature Safety Tips

When you take your pet with you to go out and enjoy all that nature has to offer, keep these suggestions in mind:

  • Keep your dog/cat leashed at all times. A fitted harness specific to their size (especially for cats) is also essential for keeping them under control.
  • Steer your pet away from any frozen lakes or ponds when taking winter walks. The ice may not be sturdy enough to support their weight.
  • While it’s okay for your pet to sniff around and explore their surroundings, don’t let them eat or drink anything they come across.
  • Make sure your pet’s ID tags are up-to-date, and that their microchip is properly registered under your name and current contact information.
  • Treat your pet with their monthly flea and tick preventative (if they’re due).
  • Have a clear idea of where you and your pet are going, and know which areas to avoid (hot sand/asphalt, sharp rocks, steep slopes, patches of poison ivy, etc.)
  • Always keep an eye on your pet, no matter where you are. Watch for any signs of trouble, especially heat stroke, which often comes with these symptoms:
    • Constant, heavy panting
    • Trouble breathing
    • Inability to urinate
    • Bright red gums
    • Staggering
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Confusion
    • Weakness