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Doberman and Christmas tree


Every dog owner and especially one with puppies needs to be aware of items that can cause harm; some toxic substances are not at all intuitive because a dog’s metabolism is different in many respects from a human’s. Three examples of food items safe for humans but dangerous for dogs to consume are chocolate, onions, and turkey skin. If your dog eats one of these, chances are you won’t notice any effects; however, that may be because dogs don’t tend to show illness readily for their own social reasons: dogs tend to hide their illness.
Some effects may be cumulative; that is, over time toxins can build up in a dog’s tissues from repeated exposure (to theobromine in chocolate, for example, which will never be metabolized in a dog’s system). If your dog is small the results of chocolate poisoning may be dramatic: vomiting, diarrhea, panting, tremors, seizures, and coma. Just four ounces of baker’s chocolate can kill a large dog. Be especially careful at Christmas time about putting wrapped boxes under the tree if they may contain chocolates.

Puppies are much more likely to get into trouble because they explore more than adults and they spend more time chewing. The area a puppy plays in should not contain cocoa bark mulch, for example, or pressure-treated lumber, fertilizer, anti-freeze, daffodil or tulip bulbs, tomato vines, or pesticides. Puppy-proof your home as you would for a baby.

Some dogs will eat grass, so of course grass that has been sprayed with pesticide is a serious hazard.

Red Doberman pup wearing sweater

Be careful when out walking with your dog in areas that may have been sprayed--parks, farmland, or neighbour's lawns.

When it comes to ornamental plants it’s safest to assume they are toxic to some extent; plants have built in defences against being eaten, and puppies’ immune systems are immature. Household cleaners, stale food, and medicines, especially Tylenol, should be kept out of reach. Don’t assume you can predict what your adult dog will develop a whim for either: better safe than sorry!

Wildlife in your area may contaminate your property. It’s never a good idea to have a bird bath or feeder near the areas accessible to your dog. Birds and rabbits carry coccidia, a parasite that will cause bloody diarrhea in your dog; in an adult it should clear after a few days but a puppy will need a stool culture and flagyl.

And of course, never allow your dog access to cooked bones because they become too sharp and brittle in the cooking process. Purchased "safe" bones are better, but a dog can break a tooth on a hard toy like a Nylabone if she/he is an aggressive chewer. String toys are dangerous because they can cause blockages after being swallowed. Similary, dental floss should be kept away from accessed areas because it can do a great deal of damage to the insides of an animal that has swallowed it. Even sticks have been known to cause a variety of problems, from getting jammed between a dog's jaws to getting lodged inside the throat and causing enormous swelling. You may think that sticks are safe enough if you've had many dogs over the years and none have had accidents, but I would say that you were lucky; if you could see the statistics, you'd feel very lucky.

Other items that dogs may try to swallow include bars of soap, pantyhose, and tissues (Kleenex). If you suspect that your dog may have eaten something like this, call your local vet emergency centre for instructions. You may need an emetic or xray. If you see your dog pacing restlessly, it may indicate impaction of something like swallowed string or fabric--or even deoderant; xrays are the safest method. If a dog becomes constipated due to food poisoning, mineral oil may solve the problem--a small amount like a teaspoon (or less for a tiny dog) can be tried to see if the discomfort is alleviated. Wait an hour and then try another teaspoon.

Try this quick quiz--it has recent findings and everyone can use a refresher at holiday time!

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