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Keeping your dog safe from household hazards involves critical thinking and planning.

Begin by making a list of all toxic substances stored for your home and garden. Try to place yourself in your dog's mind. In other words, what can you reach for or pull down that looks fun to chew on, bat around with your feet and tear open?

Step into the garage and what can you see? Next to the door leading to the garage are some fishing rods and a tackle box. Look, there are hooks and sinkers hanging on the rods. That fishing tackle box has an interesting odor; better try to get it open to see what's inside. If pawing it open doesn't work, chewing the corner off might. Bored with the fishing gear? Just down the wall are paints, paint solvents and automotive supplies—some of which are stored in plastic bottles/jugs. These are tempting for a dog to pull down from their shelves, run around with and chew on. And next to the automotive products are garden supplies. Just beyond those lie a treasure-trove of power tools, all plugged in and ready to use. What a great, fun garage to explore!

Consider as toxic all paints and related materials, along with automotive supplies. The most frustrating substance to deal with is antifreeze, which dogs actually like to lick or drink given the opportunity. Sadly, by the time your dog shows any clinical signs, irreversible kidney destruction has taken place. Swallowed fishing hooks wreak serious internal damage and lead sinkers cause lead poisoning. Garden fertilizers are poisonous, creating severe gastrointestinal symptoms and liver disease. Snail bait, gopher poison and insecticides kill thousands of pets each year.

Now that the garage survey is completed, do the same survey for the house. Usually a careful walk through your home will create an even longer list of dangers than those lurking in the garage. Pay attention to cupboards, drawers, and closets, including those in bathrooms and the kitchen. It is truly amazing the number of opportunities your dog has to ingest a toxic substance or harm himself by chewing electrical cords. Store all toxic supplies in dog (child) proof lockers and cupboards, and keep electrical cords out of reach or unplugged.

You must also consider your dog's safety when away from the home. Always keep your dog on a leash, attached to a harness or a collar that cannot slip over the head. An identification tag and local license must be attached as additional safety in case you and your dog become separated. While walking your dog, never let him eat anything from the ground, nor drink anything but fresh water offered by you. Carry water bottles for yourself and your dog when out for a long walk or hike. Finally, never leave your dog in the car alone, even with the windows part way down. Temperatures can quickly climb to dangerous levels. Sadly, we veterinarians have all had to deal with the tragedies of overheated dogs left in cars.

Your pet's health and safety is important. With a little bit of planning and foresight, your home and yard can be a safe and healthy environment for your dog. A few minutes of preparation on your part can mean a lifetime of healthy living for your pet.

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