Common Hazards for Dogs Around the House

What do dish detergent, raisins, chocolate, and mothballs have in common? They’re all hazardous for dogs—and they exist in many households. Of the many responsibilities that come with owning a dog, protecting him from dangerous foods, cleaning supplies, and other toxins should be a priority. To keep your dog safe, know where the household toxins are stored, and take steps to keep these hazards out of your dog’s paw and jaw reach.

Dog Safety in the Garage or Shed

Your garage is the storage site for highly toxic household products, quickly forgotten because they’re not in constant use like daily household cleaners. Insecticides and herbicides, rodenticides, antifreeze, and ice melt are all toxic to dogs. Paints and paint thinners are also dangerous for dogs. Making skin contact with or ingesting these products can cause anything from minor irritation and stomach upset to poisoning that threatens your dog’s life. You can find dog-safe garden pest control products and dog-safe ice melt, but many others of these items don’t come in dog-safe versions.

Wood glue is hazardous for dogs because it expands quickly outside of the bottle and, if ingested, can cause a solid blockage in your dog’s throat or stomach.

There’s typically an uptick of mouse and rat poisoning in dogs and cats in the fall and winter when people use more rodenticides to banish critters seeking shelter from the cold. If you have children and pets, it’s essential you use traps that keep the poison away from fingers, paws, and snouts. Thankfully, there are many safe, enclosed traps available today with rodent-sized holes and the poison set inside well out of reach. There are also non-toxic pellets on the market.

If you must keep rodenticide in your home, store it in a locked box or cabinet out of reach of children and pets.

Signs your dog ate mouse or rat poison (rodenticide) include:

  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Rear limb paralysis

Depending upon the amount of rodenticide your dog ingested, the symptoms may be mild or severe. If you think your dog ate rat poison, treat it as an emergency and get him immediate care from your veterinarian or the nearest animal hospital.

Store dangerous items for dogs on high garage shelves or within locked storage containers. Keep your garage well ventilated so fumes from the chemicals in these products don’t become concentrated.

Dog Safety in the Kitchen

Many of the foods and beverages you love can be toxic for your dog. The list of poisonous foods for dogs includes chocolate, avocado, onion, garlic, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, bones, coffee grounds, coffee, alcohol, yeast dough (which continues to expand in your dog’s stomach), and any sugar-free treats containing xylitol (a common sugar substitute).

Dogs get themselves into trouble in the kitchen and elsewhere around the house because of their keen sense of smell and indiscriminate palate. In other words, your dog will find and eat nearly anything if given the opportunity. His nose leads him to food on the counter, within unsecured cabinets, and in the kitchen garbage. Then, once it’s within reach, he’ll eat it until it’s gone or you make him stop.

Everyday household cleaning products found in the kitchen are also toxic to dogs. These include dish and laundry detergents, all-purpose cleaners, kitchen floor cleaners, and drain openers. If you store these items in a low cabinet, secure it with a pet-proof lock, or keep it in a high cabinet beyond your dog’s reach. If your dog is around while you clean, make sure to keep tabs on him and the cleaning products until you lock your supplies safely away again. Better yet, crate train your dog or get him used to spending time behind a dog gate while you clean.

Dish and laundry detergent pods are particularly dangerous for dogs. With their bright colors, the pods resemble toys, and they are small and easy to drop without noticing. They’re also highly concentrated. When a curious dog bites one, or the pod dissolves in his saliva, he’s releasing concentrated cleaning chemicals into his mouth and down his throat.

Read labels and, as much as possible, avoid these common ingredients:

  • Ammonia
  • Bleach
  • Formaldehyde
  • Phthalates

These ingredients are toxic to dogs if ingested in concentrated amounts, and they can also cause problems in smaller doses over time, such as when your dog licks food off the floor or counter after you clean, or inhales the chemicals through vapor floating in the air after you spray.

Look for pet-safe cleaning products that don’t contain these ingredients, or make your own pet-safe cleaning products. Simple ingredients such as vinegar and baking soda are effective for many household cleaning jobs.

Dog Safety in the Bathroom

Bathroom cabinets are a prime storage spot for household cleaners. Countertop cleaners, glass cleaners, tub and tile cleaners, and toilet bowl cleaners are toxic for dogs. Explore pet-safe versions of these cleaning supplies, and consider using other affordable, pet-safe options such as baking soda and vinegar.

Your over-the-counter and prescription medicines are another hazard for your dog in the bathroom (or wherever you store them). Make sure your medications are always out of your furry best friend’s reach, and never give your dog human medicines to treat his illnesses. Dogs and people metabolize differently, which is why medicines made for people (as well as chocolate and coffee) are dangerous for dogs.

Dog Safety in the Bedroom

Dogs will truly eat anything. Exhibit A: they’re known to ingest mothballs. If you have a dog, skip using mothballs in your bedroom closet or anywhere else in your home. Mothballs may contain naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene (PDB)—insecticides used to prevent moths and moth larvae from taking up residence in your stored clothing. Naphthalene is the more toxic of the two insecticides, but both put your dog at risk of kidney and liver damage, among other serious health issues.

Instead of mothballs, use airtight containers to store out-of-season clothing, make sure your clothes are thoroughly clean before putting them away (moths and moth larvae feed on hair, flakes of skin, and food stains), and use natural substitutes, such as cedar blocks.

We’ve covered some of the top hazards for dogs at home, but the above list is not comprehensive. It’s a wise move to keep all cleaning supplies, medicines, and home repair products stored safely away from your dog. And give him access only to the safe food and treats you supply. This is all part of dog and puppy-proofing your home.

Finally, remember these hazards exist in the yards and homes of your neighbors, family, and friends—folks who may not have dogs and thus aren’t as aware of common dog hazards. The key takeaway: at home and when your dog is exploring the world nose first, it’s your job to make sure his curiosity and unfussy eating habits don’t get him into serious trouble.

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