Dangerous Dozen

Keeping your dog safe is as easy as remembering 12 of the biggest areas of concern.

Keep your sweetie safefrom common dangers.

1. Lack of training. Every dog needs to learn basic commands, such as sit, stay, and come. An uncontrollable dog may run into traffic, wander away from you, or be hurt by another dog or person (who may only be acting in self-defense).

2. Not having identification. A flat, buckled collar and personal ID tags are a necessity. Never let your dog leave the house without proper identification. If you're feeling rushed and hurried (and thinking you'll skip the collar), your dog might sense your distraction and choose that moment to dash away.

3. Eating poisonous plants. Although severe gastric distress is the most common problem that occurs when dogs eat plants, a snack on the wrong greenery can be fatal to dogs. Err on the side of caution and keep your dog away from houseplants and garden plants. You can ask your vet or local agricultural extension service for a list of poisonous plants that grow in your area.

4. Lapping up antifreeze. Dogs are attracted to the sweet taste of antifreeze, but it's toxic. Antifreeze spills occur in winter as people change their antifreeze, and in warm weather, cars can overheat and leak antifreeze. Store your antifreeze in a locked cabinet or on a high shelf, and clean up leaks in your garage or driveway immediately. Dispose of spilled antifreeze or empty containers in a container with a secure lid.

5. Hot, parked cars. Never leave a dog in a parked car in warm weather, even if the window is partially open. In a matter of minutes, your vehicle can become so hot that your dog can suffer heatstroke or brain damage. He could even die.

6. Eating chocolate. Although a little bit of chocolate won't kill your dog, ingesting too much can cause pancreatic problems, gastric distress, hyperactivity, or seizures (and sometimes these reactions are fatal). At holiday times especially, don't leave chocolates (even wrapped) out where your dog can grab them. Dogs have been known to sniff out, and help themselves to, gift-wrapped boxes of chocolate under Christmas trees.

7. Ingesting household chemicals. All cleaning products, from toilet-bowl disinfectants to laundry and dish detergents, should be stored in tightly-sealed containers, in locked cabinets, or on a high shelf. Contact with household chemicals can cause gastric upset; severe burns of the mouth, tongue, and stomach; or worse. Don't leave your dishwasher door open; your dog may decide to lick the detergent dispenser which may contain detergent residue even if the machine has been run. And when you clean your oven, make sure the dog is far away in a well-ventilated room.

8. Overexposure to lawn and garden products. Fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides can be toxic. The smaller your dog, the more at risk she is for becoming ill. As a dog walks across a treated lawn, the chemicals adhere to her feet, and she can become ill from licking the residue off her feet. If your lawn is treated, be sure that it is completely dry before you let your dog into the yard after a treatment.

9. Overdosing on medications. In addition to accidental overdoses, which could occur only if a medication was left out where your dog could get at it, it's tempting to try to treat your dog with the medicines you use for the rest of the family. But a drug like acetaminophen, for example, though safe and effective for humans, can poison a dog. Even if an over-the-counter human drug is safe for dogs, check with your vet about the proper dose. Don't just guess based on how much your dog weighs; dogs' bodies work differently than ours.

10. Access to electrical cords. A dog chewing on an electrical cord can cause a fire or be electrocuted. If, after the puppy stage, your dog is still a curious chewer, continue to keep the electrical cords in your house tacked or taped down, and out of your dog's reach.

11. Choking on bones. Even though pet supply stores sell them and people give them to their dogs, bones are truly a safety issue for dogs and completely unnecessary for a healthy diet. Toys are much better for dogs than bones.

And it's not just the small bones from poultry that can cause damage. Beef and pork (including rib) bones also can cause broken teeth, mouth injuries, constipation, and intestinal perforations. Even the American Kennel Club advises, "You're better off leaving [bones] out of your dog's diet altogether."

12. Ingesting tobacco. Dogs can develop nicotine poisoning from ingesting tobacco products. You'd never think of snacking on an ashtray full of cigarette butts, but you're not a dog. If you entertain smokers, be sure to ask them to place butts in ashtrays that are out of your dog's reach.

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