If you’ve recently adopted a pet or are preparing to welcome home a new bundle of fur, you’ll need to take special precautions to ensure their new home is safe and healthy. Read our Mercer Street Veterinary Hospital team’s pet-proofing guide to learn how to protect your four-legged friend from common household hazards.
Pet-proofing is for every home
No matter if your pet is a wide-eyed youngster or a seasoned senior, your new furry pal will spend most of their first few months acclimating to their new life and learning the house rules. During this time, they’ll be naturally curious about unfamiliar things and situations, and will probably choose to explore them in less-than-ideal—but entirely natural—ways, including chewing, ingesting, pursuing, or destroying.
Sadly, these inquisitive behaviors can be hazardous and sometimes life-threatening. Identifying and removing hazards through pet-proofing prevents your pet from accessing harmful items or engaging in dangerous behavior. By eliminating the opportunity, you limit your pet’s harm risk. Follow these five steps to ensure your pet’s homecoming—and all days thereafter—are safe and hazard-free.
#1: Secure the exits—prevent pet escape
Any pet may escape out of curiosity, boredom, or fright. Secure your pet’s perimeter by assessing key egress points, including:
- Doors — Keep external doors closed, or confine your pet with a pet gate or crate to restrict their access to these doors.
- Fences — Locate and repair any fence gaps, missing or broken boards, and holes dug beneath. Ensure fence gates stay closed and latched.
- Windows — Never leave your pet unattended around open windows, and use a barricade (e.g., exercise pen, pet gate) to prevent their direct access.
- Stairs — Senior pets may have decreased vision or spatial awareness, which can make negotiating stairs difficult. Consider using a gate or exercise pen to restrict stair access until you can assess your new pet’s capabilities.
For added peace of mind, have your pet microchipped, ensuring the chip is registered in your name, with your current phone number. If you need assistance registering your pet’s chip, contact our Mercer Street Veterinary Hospital team. If your pet wears a collar, ensure their tag information is up-to-date.
#2: Ever-present threat—general pet safety hazards
A typical home has common safety hazards throughout. After you identify common pet safety hazards, secure or remove the items to prevent your furry family member from coming in contact with them:
- Electrical cords
- Curtains and blind cords
- Trash cans
- Breakable items (e.g., glass, ceramic)
- Small choking hazards (e.g., figurines, batteries, children’s toys)
- Unsecured shelves and furniture
#3: Household toxins—items that can poison your pet
Numerous toxins lurk in the typical home. When ingested, these common household items can cause your pet toxic side effects, ranging from gastrointestinal (GI) distress to fatal heart arrhythmias, dangerously low blood pressure, and irreversible organ damage. Some common household pet toxins include:
- Dental and beauty products — These products contain xylitol, an ingredient that is poisonous to dogs, which causes liver failure.
- Medications — Human and pet prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can cause a pet to develop a life-threatening condition.
- Foods — Foods that are toxic to pets include caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, onions, xylitol-containing products (e.g., sugar-free candies, gums, treats), raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, and unbaked bread dough.
- Home repair products — Store home renovation supplies, such as paint, paint thinner, and other chemicals, out of your pet’s reach.
- House plants — Many popular house plants and flowers are toxic to pets. Check your plants against the ASPCA Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant List, or simply move all household plants out of your pet’s reach.
#4: The not-so-great outdoors—yard and garage pet hazards
Your pet’s world extends beyond your home’s four walls, so you need to ensure that any area to which your pet has access—with permission or otherwise—is secure and hazard-free. Pet-proof outdoor spaces by identifying and removing common toxins, including:
- Antifreeze — Pets are attracted to ethylene glycol, the sweet-tasting active ingredient in antifreeze, and some windshield wiper fluids, motor oils, and hydraulic brake fluids. As little as one sip can cause irreversible and rapid kidney failure.
- Fertilizer — Garden and yard fertilizers contain chemical compounds and minerals that can cause a pet to experience an electrolyte imbalance and severe GI distress.
- Rodent bait, slug bait, and insecticides — Pesticides are poisonous and have devastating effects on pets. Replace these lethal items with pet-safe alternatives and natural pest control methods.
#5: Know who to call—post pet emergency numbers in plain sight
Despite your best pet-proofing efforts, accidents can occur, and if they do, every second counts. To help save valuable time, post phone numbers for emergency veterinary resources in an easy-to-see location, such as on your refrigerator, and in your phone’s contact list. We suggest you include the following phone numbers:
- Mercer Street Veterinary Hospital’s main line—for assistance during normal business hours
- ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center if your pet ingests a toxin
- Your nearest veterinary emergency facility
Pet-proofing is the best way to protect your new pet during their first few months in your home—and beyond. While training and acclimation helps your pet learn boundaries and expectations, you must continue being mindful of your pet-proofing responsibilities, such as storing toxins out of reach and securing your yard’s perimeter.
Schedule your new pet’s first appointment with our Mercer Street Veterinary Hospital team. We are eager to meet your new friend!
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