Health and Safety Tips

The following information is taken from the AdoptaPet.com blog and was written by various authors. Many other topics are available at AdoptaPet.com. Other health and safety resources are available at Dr. Jean Dodds’ Pet Health Resource blog, dogsnaturallymagazine.com, and whole-dog-journal.com.

In the Household

A simple rule to follow: if it is unsafe or unhealthy for humans, consider it unsafe or unhealthy for animals. By following a few easy rules, pet owners can keep their animals happy and healthy.

  • Keep trashcans securely covered.

  • Do not put unused or expired medications in the trash or down the drain. Many communities have safe ways to get rid of medications through local refuse collection sites.

  • For cleaning or renovation projects, wear a protective mask and coverings, have proper ventilation and keep pets away.

  • Do not leave any hazardous items on the floor, counters, tables or anywhere a pet can easily access.

  • Keep dangerous products, like cleaning supplies, renovation materials or unsafe people food in a locked cabinet. Since many pets are able to open cabinets easily, attach child locks.

  • For any extended home renovation including painting, tiling, wallpapering, sanding or refinishing surfaces, keep pets out of the house. If the renovation lasts more than a day, keep pets at a friend’s house or a kennel. Animals can not only ingest or inhale hazardous materials, there is also a threat of animals stepping on nails, glass, insulation or broken tile.

  • Always inspect pets’ mouths, eyes, ears and feet to see any telltale signs of naughty behavior.

During Thunderstorms

  1. Always keep proper identification securely fastened to your dog’s collar in case he gets out. Consider talking to your veterinarian about implanting a microchip in your pet for life-long identification. Remember to update your veterinary clinic and animal shelter with your correct contact information.

  2. Give your dog a safe place to stay during storms. Inside your home, create a quiet den-like area where your dog can feel secure. A properly introduced crate or kennel can be a calming refuge for him. When a storm is brewing, lead your dog to his special place to help him feel calm and protected.

  3. If your dog lives outside, bring him inside until the storm passes. Outside dogs can get lost or even injured if they escape their fenced yards in fear during storms.

  4. Dogs can pick up fear or discomfort with storms from their people, so it is important that you develop a calm, matter-of-fact attitude. Let your dog stay close and try to distract him with activities like play or brushing. Do not try to reassure him in a sympathetic voice—this will sound like praise and may increase his nervousness and confusion.

  5. Some dogs become destructive when frightened. A crate is always the best way to keep your dog safe and your belongings intact. If you don’t use a crate, remove any items in the room that your dog could destroy or which could hurt him if he chewed them.

  6. During a storm, keep windows and curtains closed to reduce noise and bright flashes. Turn on a TV or radio playing soft music at normal volume to distract your dog and help him to relax.

  7. Keep your dog away from doors that lead outside. Your dog may be under significant stress, which could result in unnecessary injury to others entering your home or cause him to dart outside and get lost or injured.

  8. Your dog may become incontinent due to his extreme fear and the rush of adrenaline he experiences during a storm. Be prepared, and understanding.

  9. Dogs that continue to panic in thunderstorms may have to be reconditioned by creating an artificial storm with environmental recordings. While reconditioning can be a time-consuming procedure, it can have a high success rate. A dog behavioral therapist can also help you teach your dog to be calmer during storms.

  10. In the most extreme cases, medication in conjunction with training may be the best solution to help your dog cope with his fear of storms. Consult with your veterinarian about possible treatments.

Your dog’s phobia about thunderstorms won’t get better on its own. Help him learn that “it’s just noise” and is nothing for him to worry about. When he learns to relax and remain calm, you can relax and not worry about your dog during future storms.

Safety during a Dog Fight

The most important things to remember are to stay calm and not put your hands in the middle of the fight! Different people have different opinions about what to do to actually break up a fight, but all agree that you should never stick your hands in a dog fight, even if you are trying to break it up. Also, do not pull at your dog’s collar because it’s best to steer clear of the mouth area. Most dog bites occur because a person is trying to break up a dog fight, and the dog will turn around and redirect onto the hand. There are other ways to separate dogs such as getting a broom or piece of cardboard to stick in the middle of the fight. This article has some helpful tips about what you should and should not do when it comes to breaking up a canine quarrel.

Safe Car Trips with Your Pets

  1. Pet Seat Belt Harness or Crate. Pets should never be allowed to ride unrestrained inside a vehicle, or outside in the flatbed of a truck. Keep your pets safe in a properly fitted car or flatbed pet harness, secured to the seat-belt or tie-downs, or inside a properly-sized travel crate that is securely strapped in place.

  2. Windows Open? Oh my, how dogs love to stick their noses out of a moving car window! But is the danger of your pet being blinded or worse worth it? Check out BreezeGuard‘s car window screens! They will let your dog (or even that adventurous cat) enjoy the same windy sensation much more safely. They also keep your pet safely contained, and inside temperatures matching the outside, when you stop.

  3. Back seat. Just like with kids, the back seat is the safest place for your family pet to ride – not all the way in the back of a wagon or truck, and not in the front, especially where an airbag could deploy in case of an accident.

  4. Car Sick Pets. Motion sickness is no fun for you or your pet. Try to not feed them 4-6 hours before the car trip. Make frequent stops if it’s a long trip. Drive slower than usual, especially around curves. Roll down the window closest to them an inch or two for a safe breeze, or use a BreezeGuard car window screen. If the pet is smaller, elevate on a cushion, pet car seat, or in a crate so they can see out the window. You can also get your pet used to car trips and less likely to get sick by taking them on daily short rides around the block, gradually lengthening the trip each time.

  5. Collar and ID. Every car trip, make sure your pets are wearing a collar with an up-to-date ID tag. Preferably it should have not only your phone number and address, but your emergency contact phone numbers as well – like your vet or a neighbor/friend who could take in your pet temporarily. What if you are in an accident, your pet escapes, and you are not home or unable to answer your cell phone? Having your pet microchipped with all those up-to-date contacts is a good safety tip too.

Puppies and Children

Can you safely bring a young puppy into a house with small children? Many times that answer is YES, but it does take a lot of supervision, separation, training and time. NOTE: Since every baby and puppy is different, please consult a professional dog trainer before following any of our tips.

What age is best?
First, consider the age of the puppy: you can’t expect a 2, 3, or even 5-month-old puppy to be trained enough to be baby- or toddler-safe off-leash. Only an older puppy – one 6 months or older, who has finished teething – can have had enough training to behave safely with babies and young children. Also, consider the age of your children: are they old enough to understand and obey your rules about the dog or puppy?

Many parents think “I want the puppy to grow up with my children,” not realizing that this can still happen with an older puppy, or even an adult dog (they will still be growing up together), and can be a much easier and safer experience for everyone!

Supervision
It takes a lot more time and effort to overcome a bad experience, than to create a safe setup for ongoing positive ones! Puppies and babies have unsophisticated communication skills with their own species, and non-existent skills with another species. BOTH need constant supervision. Both need environments protected from their innocence and impulses. You cannot blame a puppy for biting a baby; it simply does not know any better yet. When awake, both young children and puppies require an adult’s undivided attention. To do both at once is nearly impossible, and is an accident waiting to happen.

While you are training your new dog or puppy, keep them safely separated using baby gates, playpens, and/or a crate. That way they can get safely used to seeing, smelling and hearing each other. The two should be introduced to each other for periods of time, and very gradually. NEVER leave them alone together until you are sure that the ground rules established by you will be followed. This is only after your new puppy and your child are old enough to understand, remember and follow the rules.

Many dog experts recommend following a “6-6″ rule: only when the puppy has been trained and socialized with your children for 6 months, and the children are at least 6 years old, would unsupervised time together be safe.

Training, Behavior & Play
Teach your children not to pull tails, ears, or poke at the dog by having them watch you, and if your child is old enough to listen when you say no, to mimic you. Demonstrate how to pet the dog gently by taking the child’s hand, running it softly along the dog’s body, and saying, “Niiiice” in a soothing tone of voice.

Many puppies are afraid and will retreat if approached quickly. Toddlers seem to love to run after animals, which often frightens them, and if cornered, a normally gentle pet may resort to nipping to protect himself. Teach your child that the puppy likes to be approached slowly, and that when a puppy is sleeping, not to wake him or her.

Here are just a few kid-friendly puppy ideas:

  • Teach your children how to throw a ball for the puppy, and teach your puppy to bring the ball back and drop it for the child.

  • Go on walks together where you attach two leashes to the puppy’s collar, so you each can hold one.

  • Play hide and “seek” with puppy’s toys or a treat. Hold the puppy back while your child “hides” the toy and then let puppy go find it, encouraging your child to tell the puppy if he’s getting “hotter” or “colder” as he moves towards or away from the hiding spot.

  • Spend quiet time reading together. Puppies and dogs make especially wonderful, non-judgmental listeners for new readers!

Nipping & Rough play
Puppies will try to play with babies and toddlers by jumping on them and grabbing hold with their teeth. After all, this is how canine babies play with their canine brothers and sisters. Puppies be taught that human children are not their littermates. If this isn’t taught, a growing puppy’s behavior will become increasingly rough, and the odds increase that a small child will be seriously hurt during play. Never allow your child OR ANY ADULT to use their hands, fingers, feet, or clothing (like pant legs, or shirt sleeves) for play, and do not play tug-of-war games. This kind of play will lead to aggressive behavior. It’s tempting because its cute and fun when puppies are little, but will it be fun when your 70 pound dog comes running at you and grabs on to your pant leg with his teeth and pulls? If you allow your puppy to treat children and adults like any a toy or puppy, and your child could end up seriously scratched or bitten.

Teething
Puppy teething usually lasts until 4-5 months of age. As with babies, teething is painful to puppies. Chewing is natural and helps to relieve the pain, and puppies will chew on anything they can get their mouth on, including small hands, fingers – especially as those things often smell like the delicious food they were just holding! Puppies have baby teeth, which are like sharp, large needles, until around 4 months of age, and they can do serious damage to baby soft skin. You will need to very closely supervise and restrain (on leash) a young puppy to prevent them from teething on or play-biting a young child.

Food
Be sure your children do not try to take food away from the dog or put their hands in the pet’s food bowl. Some animals perceive this as a threat to their food and react aggressively. You should be training your new puppy in food bowl socialization, but it is never a good idea to feed the puppy when children are present, best to do so in a separate room or crate. Teach your puppy to sit and stay when your child is holding food, and that YOU are the only one that ever gives the puppy food. (They will see something in the child’s hand and then look to you for the reward, instead of trying to grab it out of their hand.)

Dog Park Safety

Dog parks can be a great way to socialize your dog — but can also be unsafe if proper measures aren’t taken. The following tips are to help you keep your dog safe and happy at the park.

  • Know your dog. Not all dogs enjoy meeting new dogs. Don’t let your dog get overwhelmed by meeting too many dogs at once. If your dog has not interacted regularly with other dogs, find out how he will react. You can perform a test by introducing your dog to a friend’s dog that you know interacts well with other dogs. Testing your dog in a controlled environment is ideal before you go into the dog park.

  • Keep your dog healthy. Be sure your dog isn’t vulnerable to picking up infections from other dogs by keeping him up to date on his vaccinations and worming medications.

  • Observe. Consider visiting the park without your dog for the first time to familiarize yourself with the park itself and the dogs that play there. Before bringing your dog inside the park, spend a few minutes watching the other dogs and how they interact. If the dogs seem too rough for your dog, come back at another time or try a different dog park. On your next visit you may want to bring your dog and sit quietly with him outside the park. Having your dog with you to observe from outside the park enables you to watch how he reacts to seeing the other dogs.

  • Start out slow. The first few visits to the dog park should be short, no longer than 15 minutes. Slowly increase the length of your stays as your dog becomes more comfortable with the dog park atmosphere.     
  • Closely supervise your dog. Don’t get distracted while talking to other owners. Keep an eye on your dog at all times to make sure his interactions with other dogs are safe. Watch his body language to help you avoid any trouble before it begins. Watching his actions also enables you to quickly clean up after your pet.

  • Let your dog off leash as soon as you enter unleashed areas. Mixing leashed and unleashed dogs can create a hostile situation. Leashed dogs, and their owners, often display body language and behavior that is threatening to the unleashed dogs and may encourage them to be aggressive and defensive in return. A leashed dog cannot make the choice his natural instinct tells him of “fight or flight” — if he cannot take flight, he may have to fight.

Potential hazards. Be aware of potential hazards that may be in the park, such as toxic chemicals, garbage or noxious plants. Be sure to wash any chemicals, such as fertilizer or pesticides, off of your dog’s feet and legs to ensure they aren’t licked and ingested.

  • Leave children at home. Don’t bring children with you to the dog park. You will not safely be able to watch your kids and your dog at the same time. Many dogs have not been socialized to children. Both frighten and excite easily — and react differently — creating a dangerous atmosphere. It’s simply too easy for a child to get hurt at a dog park.

  • Leave small puppies at home. Puppies less than four months old aren’t fully immunized yet and are at higher risk for contracting diseases. They are also very vulnerable to being traumatized by another dog’s aggressive behavior.

  • Do not bring toys or food. Most parks are already littered with balls and toys that other people have brought. Rewarding your dog with treats or giving him toys in front of other dogs can create jealousy and aggression.

  • Body language. Educate yourself about dog body language and communication signals so you can tell the difference between fear, play and anger.

  • Know when to leave. You should remove your dog from the park if he is being threatened or bullied and seems fearful; begins to display aggressive behavior by becoming overexcited or threatening toward other dogs; is panting heavily; or seems overly tired. Keep your dog’s welfare a top priority.

  • DO NOT physically intervene in a dog fight. Never reach in to break up fighting dogs. Squirt the dogs in the face with a water bottle or try to distract them by throwing something near them, but never physically intervene.

  • Prevent injuries. Be aware of the signs of a possible dog fight before it might happen. Don’t allow a dog’s overexcitement turn into a fight. If your dog injures a person or dog, give your name and phone number to the injured party. Report to law enforcement authorities any handlers who refuse to take liability for damages or injuries and who are endangering the safety of others.