Keeping pets safe is a high priority on the list for many families. However, you may be unintentionally putting your pets at risk by not knowing about these common hazards around the home.
Top 11 common pet safety hazards in your home
1. Electrical cords and wiring
Exposed electrical chords or wiring can pose a great danger to your pet. If chewed on, they can result in painful lacerations to the mouth and tongue. This is especially common in dogs who like to chew on everything! Keep them out of reach by taping them to the floor, or running the cords behind or under furniture to discourage access. If your pet likes to chew on cords because they are bored, look into some enrichment toys so they are occupied throughout the day.
2. Windows and balconies
Windows and balconies can pose a threat to our furry family members, especially if they are curious little escape artists like many cats. Being the mini parkour experts they are, cats are particularly susceptible to jumping off balconies and scaling the balconies of neighbours. Take care to supervise them when taking them on the balcony to prevent high-rise syndrome. Fit them with a harness or leash so they can explore without the fear they will leap out of your reach. You can also fit your balcony with a grass trellis if your pet likes to stick its nose in the gap between the balcony and the floor.
Pets are known to love windows – people to watch, wildlife to ponder, it's the perfect place to feel the sunshine streaming in on a warm day. Cats often like to perch precariously on the ledges of these windows and watch the day unfold. However, they can also pose the same risk as balconies. Take care to close all windows while you’re not around, or leave them open no more than 3-5cm. Ensure they’re closed before you start making loud noises or vacuuming too, as pets can be startled by loud noises, and may take cover by running to an open window.
3. The kitchen
It's a well-known fact that most dogs love food, and many will eat anything you hand to them. While they might be putting on the puppy-dog eyes for a piece of your meal, we recommend holding back on feeding them anything not given the green light by a vet.
The kitchen is where food that's not safe for pet consumption can drop. Keep an eye out for these foods that are known to be toxic to cats and dogs, and always consult your vet if you are unsure.
- Cherrie pits
- Apricot pits
- Macadamia nuts
- Cooked bones
Read our article for more information on foods that are toxic to dogs.
4. Toxic plants or flowers
Sometimes our pet’s curious nature can get the better of them – especially when they’re sniffing around garden at plants or flowers that can cause them harm. If you suspect your pet may have ingested any of these plants or flowers, contact your vet immediately.
Some household plants toxic to dogs include:
- Lily of the Valley
Some household plants toxic to cats include:
- Aloe Vera
- Lily of the Valley
- Mother-in-law’s Tongue
There are many toxic plants and flowers it can be hard to keep up. Read more on plants that are toxic to pets.
5. The garage
The typical household stores chemicals and solvents, insecticides, and rodenticides in the garage. These can be particularly harmful to your pet if they are ingested. If you find they have gotten into or suspect they may have ingested any of these products, consult your vet and keep on the lookout for signs of gastrointestinal irritation, vomiting, diarrhoea, convulsions, and lethargy.
Most households store their cars in a garage, especially in winter. However, you might find that your cat loves to sit under the bonnet of cars or in the cozy confines of the car engine. This will especially ring true on those cold winter mornings! They love to keep warm in dark, warm, compact spaces; your car is probably the perfect place to do so. Make sure you check under the car before leaving the garage, and ensure your pet does not remain in the garage when you’re leaving for work in the morning, for example.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for cats to climb up near the engine in further pursuit of warmth. Always check where your furry friend is before starting the engine. If you cannot find your cat and suspect he or she is underneath the car somewhere, honk your horn for a second or two to prompt them into coming out.
6. Carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless gas produced by carbon fuels. This gas can build up in semi-enclosed or enclosed spaces and can be detrimental if inhaled. Just like humans, pets are susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning. Common sources include fuel-burning appliances like barbeques, charcoal grills, outdoor heaters, and vehicle engine exhausts. In the home, sources can include clothes dryers, fireplaces, gas stoves and ovens.
To prevent carbon monoxide inhalation, never leave your pet in an enclosed garage with the engine running. Don’t operate fuel-burning appliances in enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces, and always store propane cylinders in an outdoor, well-ventilated area. Make sure you schedule regular inspections and servicing of fuel-burning appliances. It's also worth having a few CO detectors around your property.
Since pets are smaller and closer to the ground, they may show signs of being affected by carbon monoxide before us. If you suspect your pet might be a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning, keep an eye out for the following signs:
- Out-of-the-ordinary irritable behaviour such as aggression or anxiety
- Intolerance to exercise they normally love, such as walks
- Bright red lips, gums, and ears
7. Washing machines and dryers
As mentioned, cats love to hide in warm, compact places, especially in winter. Unfortunately, this also means they can get caught in places they shouldn't be – like washing machines and dryers. Always be sure to check where your pet is before pressing the start button on the cycle, as being stuck in a washing machine or dryer can be a matter of life or death. In 2020, Oscar the cat from Queensland, Australia was lucky enough to survive 12 minutes in the washing machine. However, as unfortunate as it is, many are not as lucky.
8. Human medication
Human medication, prescription or non-prescription, should not be consumed by pets. Many of us keep our medication on the table beside our bed, especially if we consume the medication before we go to sleep. However, this is why the bedroom is one of the most dangerous rooms in the house. Whether your dog is a senior, an adult, or a puppy, they probably sleep on the bed or in the room with you. This means they likely have access to the drugs on your nightstand. The smartest and easiest way to prevent your pet from accessing your medication is to store it away in a bathroom cupboard. Consumption of these drugs can result in gastrointestinal issues, changes in blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, or even kidney failure.
9. Cleaning products
As with humans, cleaning products are incredibly harmful if ingested. While you probably know you shouldn’t drink bleach, our furry friends can’t read the labels. Ingredients that make these products effective (like alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and bleach) also make them toxic to pets. If the product comes into contact with skin (or fur) or is swallowed, it can cause severe burns to our beloved pets. if inhaled in a high concentration it can also cause stomach issues, vomiting, diarrhoea, or respiratory tract infection.
We recommend keeping pets out of the room when you’re cleaning – put them outside with a bone or treat to keep them occupied so they’re not tempted to smell whatever you’re using. After you’ve used the cleaning product, wipe it down with water to remove any lingering or excess product. Finally, make sure your home is well-ventilated.
10. Garden products
Cats and dogs love the garden. It's the perfect place to chase birds, frolic, and roll around, soaking up the sun on a warm day. However, like any place in the house, it can also pose some risks.
Most of us know how toxic chocolate is to our pets – cocoa bean mulch, a common garden mulch, is made from the discarded shells of the cocoa bean. The tempting smell, similar to chocolate, can attract pets and encourage them to snack on the mulch. Cocoa mulch, like chocolate, contains theobromine and caffeine, two things that pets should never consume.
Many fertilisers, like the granular variety, are safe for pets. However, those that contain blood and bone meal can cause significant vomiting, diarrhoea, and gastrointestinal upset. They can also cause pancreatitis if consumed in large quantities.
Likewise, our gardens can contain plants or flowers that are highly toxic to our pets and should be kept out of their reach.
11. Essential oils
Essential oils are made from concentrated plant substances and are popular as a form of natural medicine. They are commonly used in diffusers around the home. Not all oils are created equally, and some may be more harmful to your pet than others. Some oils to keep away from your pets include:
- Ylang ylang
Humans love to light a candle or a diffuser with calming oils as a way to relax after a long day. But are you unintentionally harming your pet by exposing them to these oils? The answer is more complicated than a yes or no.
In a highly concentrated form, essential oils can be dangerous, especially if they’ve stepped in any or gotten any on their skin or fur. However, if you’re only lighting your diffuser for a short time in a secure, enclosed area (one that's not accessible to your pet), you should be okay. If your furry friend has a history of respiratory issues, it's probably best to avoid one altogether. Keep in mind that your pets have a much keener sense of smell than we do!
To avoid ingestion or exposure to these oils, keep them out of your pet's reach and in a secure, closed-off area.