Hazardous home truths - the domestic dangers for fur kids

AWARE: Protect your pet from household dangers by knowing the risks. Picture: Shutterstock
AWARE: Protect your pet from household dangers by knowing the risks. Picture: Shutterstock

We love our pets and want to keep them safe and comfortable at home. But did you know some common household items can also be highly dangerous for animals and must be kept safely out of reach, or - in some cases - shouldn't be brought into the house at all if you have pets?

Here are common items that can be dangerous, even fatal, and we encourage you to seek advice from reputable sources like our Knowledgebase or your vet, as this isn't an exhaustive list.

Plants

A surprising number of common household plants can be highly toxic to pets. For example, lilies can cause acute and potentially fatal kidney failure within 36 to 72 hours in cats - so if your cat has had access to a lily plant (even if you didn't actually see them contact the plant), take them to the nearest vet immediately. Other common plant species can be toxic to dogs, cats, and horses - the US animal welfare organisation ASPCA has a good list on their website.

Food

Some foods are toxic to pets and should never be fed to them. Also be careful cooking with these foods to ensure animals don't have access to them (watch kitchen countertops around the more enterprising pets). These include chocolate; members of the Allium family like onions, garlic, chives and leeks; tomatoes (for cats); macadamia nuts; raisins, sultanas and grapes; avocado; and products containing caffeine.

Feeding fat trimmings may cause gastrointestinal upsets in pets and even pancreatitis, while raw fish, liver and sugary foods can be dangerous in excess. Do not feed pets cooked bones as they can splinter and cause gastrointestinal obstructions.

Medication

Many prescription and over-the-counter medicines are toxic to animals. For example, paracetamol (Panadol) is highly poisonous to cats, even in tiny amounts, and ibuprofen is toxic to dogs. Never medicate your pet without your veterinarian's advice and ensure all medications - human or animal - are kept in sealed containers out of your pets' reach.

Some pet medicines can be dangerous if used incorrectly. For example, some flea prevention treatments for dogs contain compounds that are highly toxic for cats. Always use medicines according to your vet's and the package's instructions.

Fertiliser

Fertilisers can be dangerous, although the exact effects may differ depending on the product. We recommend pet owners take active steps to ensure dogs and other pets don't ingest any type of fertiliser material - and if you suspect your pet has ingested fertiliser, contact your vet for advice. Some types of fertiliser like bone meal and blood meal can cause significant gastrointestinal upset if eaten in large quantities by dogs.

Rodent poisons and insecticides

Rodent poisons and insecticides are one of the most common causes of pet poisonings. They are designed to entice animals to eat them and attempts to hide them in hard-to-reach places are often unsuccessful. Be aware that your cat or dog can also be poisoned if they eat a rodent who has been poisoned. We recommend more humane methods of pest control and, if you must use rodenticides or insecticides, keep them safely locked up and only use them in areas your pet definitely can't access.

Other considerations

Some other household dangers to watch out for include antifreeze (which is deadly even in small amounts), fruit stones that have dropped from trees (which can cause intestinal blockages or obstructions) and xylitol sugar substitute, which is very dangerous to dogs, so be sure that they cannot access any products containing this such as some chewing gums, lollies, drinks, toothpastes and baked goods.

For more advice, visit the RSPCA Knowledgebase, the Animal Emergency Centre advice on pet dangers, or your veterinarian.