Household dangers for your pets

As loving pet owners, we want to keep our furry friends as safe as possible. Find out how to help them avoid household hazards and make your home a pet-friendly one.

Eve Powell
Eve Powell
Updated 11 April 2022  | 3 mins read

Toxic foods

Most dogs and cats love a tasty treat but don’t always have discerning taste buds when it comes to eating things they shouldn’t.

Human foods they should be kept away from include:

  • Chocolate - The higher the cocoa content the more harmful the chocolate is
  • Caffeine - Keep tea bags and coffee out of reach of cats and dogs
  • Grapes and raisins - They contain toxins which are potentially poisonous to dogs
  • Onions, garlic and chives - Eating too much of these can poison dogs and cats
  • Salt - Salty foods, sea water, dishwasher tablets and the rock salt used on icy roads can also cause problems if consumed
  • Artificial sweetener (xylitol) - Found in diet foods and sugar-free products like chewing gum, the artificial sweetener xylitol can cause liver failure and blood clotting in dogs
  • Vitamin D - As well as coming in tablet form, it can also be found in cod liver oil and some skin creams. If eaten it can damage a pet’s heart, liver and kidneys
  • Iron - Foods rich in iron can be very dangerous to pets. Also watch out for garden products like lawn feed which can contain iron

Household dangers

It might be surprising to know that some common household items can cause our pets real harm.

Cleaning products, antifreeze, medicines and batteries can all be very dangerous if they’re chewed or swallowed by your pets - so make sure you keep them out of reach.

Bins can be very appealing if they contain food scraps but they also contain plenty of potential hazards too, so use a bin with a lid and make sure it can’t be easily knocked over.

Electric safety

There are plenty of electrical dangers in your home too. For example, portable appliances like heaters can be knocked over injuring your pet, or cause a fire.

Washers and dryers can be warm places for cats to curl up in. Close doors when appliances aren’t being used and check for sleepy pets before you switch them on.

Your pet could be electrocuted or hurt if they play with electrical cords or chew through wires - so keep these out of reach by placing them behind furniture or taping them to walls.

House and garden plants

Certain plants and flowers that are commonly found in and around our homes can be very toxic to pets if they’re chewed or eaten.

Typical cut flowers you need to be careful of include lily of the valley, daffodils and tulips. If you want to display them, put them on a high surface or somewhere that pets can’t reach.

Some popular house plants can harm your pets. You may want to avoid yucca plants, aloe vera and fiddle leaf fig, or at least keep them out of the way of your furry friends.

Some garden plants and shrubs, like rhododendron, cherry laurel, and yew, can also cause pet poisoning. All bulbs are likely to make your pet sick if ingested. Check what’s in your garden and do your research when you’re buying plants.

What are the symptoms of plant poisoning in pets?

If you think your pet may have eaten something they shouldn’t have, some telltale signs they may have been poisoned include:

  • Low energy
  • Not eating
  • Agitation
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Drooling
  • Seizures or twitching
  • Drinking more
  • Pale gums
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Collapsing

Always contact your vet if you're concerned or if you suspect your pet has eaten something that might poison them.

Garden dangers for pets

Plants aren’t the only things that might harm pets in your garden, there are plenty of other possible hazards you should look out for:

Compost and grass clippings

These can contain bacteria called mycotoxins (also found in mouldy food) which are very harmful to dogs, so always store compost in a secure bin

Fertilisers, pesticides and weed killers

Eating these could cause pet sickness and diarrhoea and can irritate their skin if they come into contact with it, so keep them well away

Grass seed

If you’re getting your lawn ready for summer and laying down some grass seed, check it doesn’t get lodged in your pets paws, ears or eyes

Slug pellets

Even eating a small amount can cause death to cats and dogs within hours, so avoid using them in your garden and try to use non-toxic or natural alternatives instead

Foxes

Make sure small pets are kept safely in hutches overnight and not left unsupervised during the day. Foxes are opportunistic predators, so don’t make it easy for them

Keeping your dog safe when you’re out and about

Going on long walks and taking trips to scenic hiking spots are a great way to enjoy spending time with your dog.

To keep your dog safe when you’re heading out together:

  1. Follow farmland rules

    Be aware if you’re walking on farmland. Always keep your dog on a lead, away from livestock and stick to public pathways

  2. Be careful in the sun

    Dogs can get sun stroke and sunburn too. Avoid walking in the midday heat and make sure they’re kept away from hot tarmac which can burn their paws

  3. Watch the water

    Most dogs will lap up any water they find if they’re thirsty, but it’s not always safe to drink. It's best to carry your own water and bowl, and avoid dogs going near fresh water that has a blue-green colour - this can be caused by poisonous algae

  4. Take control

    Learn the signs for when another dog isn’t safe for yours to approach. Some dogs are friendlier than others, so train your dog to help keep it under control

  5. Make car travel safe

    Make sure your dog is firmly secured and has plenty of ventilation. Don’t let them stick their head out of the window as this can be dangerous. Take regular breaks and never leave your dog unattended in a car

How can I make my home more pet friendly?

There are plenty of things you can do to help make your house a pet-safe zone and prevent them getting into trouble when you’re not around.

Puppy-proof your home

Get down on your hands and knees and see what might be in a puppy or kitten’s line of sight. Wires, shoes, plants, and anything left lying around will all be fair game, so put anything potentially harmful or valuable out of their reach.

Accessorise with pet-safe house plants

While some plants are very poisonous if they’re eaten, there are many that are safe for cats and dogs to nibble. From parlour palms and ferns to Chinese money plants, there are plenty of decorative options that are still fine for your pet to be around.

Clean using pet-safe products

Whether it’s muddy paw prints or something worse, if you have pets you’ll invariably need to clean up. Luckily, there are plenty of pet-safe cleaning products you can buy. Regular items like vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice are also harmless (in small quantities) and effective against grime.

Use pet-safe room fragrance

Scented candles and air fresheners can be harmful to pets, whether they’re inhaled or ingested. If you want to neutralise odours, buy pet-safe air fresheners. You can also try leaving a small bowl filled with baking soda in a room to absorb unpleasant smells.

Provide a safe haven

Cats and dogs need somewhere they can escape to and feel safe, to help them deal with loud noises or busy situations. You can use a crate, comfy pet bed or even the corner of a room to set boundaries and provide them with a place where they won’t be disturbed.

Do pet-friendly renovations

Large-scale renovations can cause chaos in your home. Pets might get startled and try to run away, or crawl into nooks and crannies. Create a safe area for them, far away from the work and noise. Keep to familiar routines and try using some new toys to distract them. Or if possible, you may want to think about moving your pets out of the house, perhaps with friends or family, while renovations are underway.

Have an uneventful Christmas

Christmas can be an exciting time for pets, but keep an eye on hanging tree decorations that might be chewed or played with - particularly edible ones which should be kept up high. Always supervise your pet near the tree and remember that chocolate is poisonous to dogs.

Keeping your pet safe when you’re away from home

An enthusiastic greeting when you walk through the door is always welcome, but it’s also reassuring to know your pet will be calm and safe when you’re not there.

Here are some ways to care for pets when they’re home alone:

  1. Install a security or pet camera

    By setting up a pet camera or two, you can keep an eye on what your pet’s up to and make sure they’re safe and not getting into mischief

  2. Ask a neighbour

    If you’ll be leaving your pet alone for a while, ask a friend or neighbour to check on them. It’s also useful to have someone nearby in case your pet needs help

  3. Leave a comforting scent

    An item of your recently worn clothing left on or near their bed can help to comfort your pet. A calming pheromone diffuser or spray can also help

  4. Stick to short goodbyes

    A long farewell can make parting more difficult. Instead try and distract your pet with a puzzle toy stuffed with food that you give to them as you leave

  5. Use automated food bowls

    It’s important your pet stays fed and well hydrated when you’re not around. Automated food bowls can help you to stick to their feeding times

  6. Install pet-friendly motion sensors

    This way you can still deter potential intruders without your alarm being triggered by your pet