Bringing a dog or cat into your home can be a wonderful thing, not only for the animal, but for us and our families as well. While we might view our homes as a safe and comfortable place, there are many hidden household dangers for pets that you may not even be aware of.
Some of these hazards are only dangerous to our pets, while others may be dangerous to our families as well. It’s important to identify any potential issues as soon as possible, as it’s always better to prevent something than it is to take care of it after something already happened.
Growing up, I’ve always had a dog, while my wife has always had multiple dogs and cats. We currently have two dogs and a cat, and as you can imagine, we’ve run into our fair share of safety issues with our pets.
In this article, I’m going to share some of the not-so-obvious household hazards that our pets may encounter while in our homes. I’ll also list the steps you can take to protect them from these hazards.
Hidden Household Pet Dangers
There are many potentially dangerous items in a typical household. Some of these may be obvious to most pet owners, but not all of us have the same level of knowledge.
With that being said, let’s start with a couple of common household dangers, then move into some others that might not be so obvious.
1 – Toxic Foods
The first item on our list is toxic food. While many of us know that dogs and cats can’t eat certain foods, I’ve run into many people throughout my life that were surprised to find out about this.
Many people believe that foods that are safe for humans are also safe for animals, but that simply isn’t the case. Our bodies don’t function the same way, so don’t ever assume that what’s safe for us is safe for our pets.
So, what are some foods that cats and dogs should avoid?
- Allium (onions, garlic, etc.)
These are just some of the common ones, so it’s always a good idea to do some research before giving your pets any people food.
2 – Toxic Plants
The next item on our list is another one that might seem obvious to some, but when talking to others, it’s clear that not everyone is aware of the dangers of plants. The beautiful greenery that you have throughout your house might look and smell great, but to our cats and dogs, they can be toxic.
If you have pets, always research any plants that you want to bring home to make sure that they’re safe for them. Some common plants that are toxic to dogs and cats are:
- Sago Palm
- Some Lilies
- Aloe Vera
- Jade Plant
- Corn Plant
- ZZ Plant
Again, this is just a list of some of the common ones, so do your homework before bringing home any new plants.
3 – Register Covers
Now that we have a couple of the more obvious ones out of the way, let’s move on to one that not many people are aware of: register covers.
Register covers help to guide airflow and prevent large items from falling into our ducts. While that’s great, they also present a potential danger for our dogs, because their collars can get caught on them.
One of our dogs knows the location of our register covers very well, because she likes to lay on them to cool down in the summer. If you have a dog or cat that does the same, and they happen to have tags hanging down from their collar, it doesn’t take much for them to get caught in the register covers.
The most common type of register cover (at least the ones I’ve seen in homes most often), are flush to the floor and sit snugly into an opening. These typically don’t come out very easily, and that’s the intention.
There are, however, other register covers that you can get that basically sit in place and can be easily removed. These are less of a hazard for your pets, although since they can be removed so easily, you might find that your kids remove them and throw things into your ducts (this is based on personal experience).
The best solution is to simply remove your animals’ collars when they’re in the house, especially when you’re away.
4 – Dog Collars
While we’re on the topic of collars, did you know that it’s possible for a dog to get their jaw caught on another dog’s collar? When they do, they put extra pressure around the other dog’s neck, making it difficult to breathe and causing both dogs to panic.
While this may seem like an unlikely scenario, it has been known to happen. One of our dogs grabs our other dog’s collar with her mouth to play on a regular basis. She then pulls as hard as she can. Luckily, she has never gotten herself into the situation described above.
Just like with register covers, the best solution is to simply remove your animals’ collars.
5 – High Temperatures
Most of us know not to leave our pets and children locked in a car because of how fast they can heat up, but not all of us take the same precautions with our homes. Although the interiors of our homes don’t heat up on their own quite as quickly as our cars, on a warm day, heat can absolutely become an issue.
If you live in an area with a warmer climate, make sure to either leave the air conditioner running or at least properly ventilate the house when you’re away. If it’s an option, provide a way for your pets to get outside to a shaded area when you’re not at home as well.
6 – Small Appliances and Electronics
Every year, technology improves and the idea of a “smart home” becomes closer and closer to a reality. While most of these changes are meant to benefit us, it’s important to think about some of their unintended consequences as well.
If you have a cat that’s like the one we have, they like to chew on cables (I can’t even remember how many phone charging cables we’ve had to replace). If they happen to chew on the wrong thing, they could be in for a real shock, literally.
Do your best to keep electronics unplugged when not in use. For items that need to stay plugged in, neatly tuck the cables into small areas behind the devices that are inaccessible to your pets.
Electrical cords are not the only danger that electronics present to our animals. In your kitchen, you might have small appliances, such as a juicer, that have very sharp blades on them. It’s important to keep these devices unplugged and stored away, so an animal doesn’t accidentally turn them on and cut themselves.
7 – Other Animals
Many of us, my wife and I included, have multiple pets. Often times, we get multiple pets to provide our pets with companions to play with. While this is great in theory, not all animals get along, and even the ones that do get along don’t always get along.
One of my coworkers had several dogs with various histories that lead to some aggression (I don’t remember the full details). As a result, they always had to keep them separated any time they left the house.
One day, two of the dogs were able to get into the same area (again, I don’t remember the details), and one ended up severely injuring the other dog. While these dogs were known to be aggressive, this can happen to dogs that aren’t generally aggressive as well.
When you leave your cats and dogs home alone, you never know what’s going to happen. They might get bored or anxious and start getting into things. It’s never safe to assume that animals that typically get along will always get along. Especially, when one of them is anxious.
The best thing to do is to make sure your animals have their own area when you’re not home. Try to make these areas as low-stress as possible. For cats, make sure they have high areas that they can get to in the house.
8 – Medication
Most of us know how dangerous medications can be if taken in the wrong dose or by our small children. As a result, most of us are pretty good about storing our medications in a cabinet that’s out of reach for our young ones.
While this is a good start, if you have a cat that likes to climb, it’s probably not good enough. Our last cat could literally climb an 8 FT wall with no problem, so nothing in our house was out of reach. He also had no problem opening up cabinet doors.
At least he didn’t do this:
While a cat might not be able to open or chew through a bottle of pills, if they open a cabinet door and knock them down to the floor, they’re now within reach of our dogs and children.
If you have cats, simply put a lock on the door. While it might be a hassle to have to unlock your cabinet every time you need medication, it’s simply not worth the risk to leave it unlocked.
9 – Paint and Chemical Containers and Accessories
Dogs love to chew on things, and both dogs and cats love to lick. If you happen to store paint cans or chemical containers (stain, cleaners, etc.) inside your house, make sure that they aren’t within reach of your pets.
Even if your containers are closed, that simply isn’t good enough. Because dogs can chew through just about anything, it’s not safe to assume a closed container will not be broken open.
If you can’t store these items outside of your house, at least put them high on a shelf (which still isn’t safe from cats) or inside of a closed cabinet. Cats are known to open cabinet doors, so keep this in mind as well when choosing a locations.
Aside from the containers themselves, don’t forget about your various tools and accessories. To paint, you need a brush or some sort of applicant. You might also have a tray, gloves, and more. Don’t leave these items in areas that are accessible to your pets as they might think it’s a good idea to lick or even take a few bites out of them.
10 – Toxins in the Air
While we’re on the topic of paint and other chemicals, don’t forget that when you use these items, you release some toxins into the air. As humans, we have the option of wearing a mask, but our animals aren’t as fortunate.
If it’s an option, keep your pets outside of your home whenever using chemicals that may release toxins into your environment. Make sure to properly ventilate the area as well by opening nearby doors and windows.
Once you’re done cleaning or painting, make sure you allow the appropriate amount of time for the surfaces to dry. A dog or cat licking a freshly painted wall isn’t good for them or the wall.
11 – Batteries
A common reason for a dog visit to the ER is the ingestion of batteries. Batteries are a common household item found in many of our electronics, but since they’re typically stored inside of our devices, we forget that they’re there.
If a dog happens to puncture a battery and ingests its contents, they’re likely to experience burning in the mouth and esophagus. If the contents get on the skin, it can cause burning there as well.
Batteries pose a serious health risk for dogs and should not be taken lightly. Make sure all of your electronics are out of the reach of your dogs when you’re not at home. When you are at home, it’s still best to either store them up high or inside of a closed container when not in use.
12 – Small Toys
While on the topic of something small that your dog or cat might like to chew on, it’s important that we’re aware of all small items in our homes, not just batteries.
When my parents’ dog was a puppy several years ago, she loved chewing on anything and everything. One day out on a walk, she happened to pick up a small stick and it got wedged sideways in the back of her throat. Luckily, my dad was there and got it out pretty quickly.
While it might not happen often, our pets can choke on things, just like we can. If you have children, make sure to be aware of where they leave their small, or oddly shaped, toys. Don’t forget about dog or cat toys as well. If a toy has a squeaker and it comes out, get rid of it.
It’s always a good idea to eliminate as many choking hazards in your home as possible. When you’re not at home, pay extra attention to the various items left out in your home, including items on your countertops or other areas that your dogs and cats can reach.
13 – Trash Containers
Last on the list is your trash can. Your trash can is literally a dumping ground for all of the items that you no longer need, including some of the items listed above.
When you’re not home, a curious dog or cat might not be able to resist the temptation to check out the incredible smells spewing from your garbage. Old and moldy food isn’t the only thing in there though. You also might have items with chemical residue and small objects that can be a choking hazard.
The ideal place for your trash is in a container in your kitchen cabinets. You might not be able to fit as much in there as you would with a garbage can outside of your cabinets, but you can contain the smell, and most importantly, keep your animals out of it.
Caring for an animal is a big responsibility and isn’t something that should be taken lightly. As you can see, there are many hidden dangers lurking in your house that most people don’t even consider.
By taking the precautionary steps listed above, you’ll provide a much safer home for your pets to enjoy.