Life with a pet can be a bit unpredictable, with some of them seemingly sniffing out mischief at every turn. Some pet troubles can be harmless, but other situations can be more dangerous and may require a frightening—and costly—trip to the local emergency animal hospital. While you can’t protect your pet from every possible danger, you can take steps to reduce their risk of trouble. Read our Central Houston Animal Hospital team’s descriptions of some of the most common pet emergencies, and tips on how to prevent them. 

Keep toxins away from your pet

The average home contains many common pet toxins that can land opportunistic pets in the veterinary emergency room. Keep your pet away from the following common household pet toxins:

  • Toxic food Most pets love food and will eagerly jump at the chance to earn—or steal—a tasty treat. However, many foods for people can be toxic to pets. Never feed your pet these foods for humans because they are extremely toxic to your furry pal:
    • Chocolate — Chocolate contains methylxanthines, specifically theobromine and caffeine. These chemical compounds can have a stimulant-like effect on your pet’s central nervous system. The methylxanthine concentration is highest in dark and baker’s chocolates, although you should keep all chocolate away from your pet.
    • Xylitol — Xylitol is a natural sweetener commonly found in sugar-free candy, gum, and baked goods. Xylitol toxicity most frequently affects dogs, causing a significant blood glucose decrease (i.e., hypoglycemia) and potentially acute liver failure. 
    • Onions, garlic, and chives — While cats are most sensitive to these alliums’ harmful effects, no pet should ingest them. Not only can these foods cause gastrointestinal (GI) upset, they also can potentially destroy red blood cells and lead to anemia. 
    • Grapes and raisins — Cats and dogs can suffer acute kidney failure if they eat grapes or raisins. 
    • Alcohol — Many pets are attracted to alcohol’s sweet aroma, but are highly sensitive to liquors’ effects. A few sips from an unattended or spilled drink can cause alcohol poisoning, with signs that include incoordination, vomiting, drooling, depression, low body temperature, and sometimes seizures and respiratory distress.
  • Toxic plants — Indoor and outdoor plants add color and fragrance to a home, but many contain harmful properties that can sicken pets and can cause life-threatening organ damage. Plants that are dangerous to pets include lilies, azaleas, cyclamen, daffodils, sago palms, hyacinths, tulips, and chrysanthemums. For your pet’s safety, keep toxic plants out of their reach. Use this searchable poisonous plant list, to determine if your plants are pet-safe.
  • Toxic medications Your prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications are potentially hazardous to dogs and cats. The most common include antidepressants, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and heart medications, pain relievers (e.g., ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen), and cold medicines. Keep all medications stored securely in a cabinet out of your pet’s reach. 

Protect your pet from injuries

Pet injuries can range from minor to severe and can often be prevented when you take simple precautions. To help protect your pet from injury, follow these tips:

  • Keep your pet secure — Injuries often occur when a pet gets loose from their leash or backyard. To prevent your furry pal from getting loose and potentially injured—or lost—securely leash your pet on walks and check your fence for gaps through which they could escape.
  • Train your pet  — When your pet responds appropriately to simple commands, they can avoid a life-threatening emergency. For example, if your pet slips out the front door, ensure they know how to obey when you give them lifesaving commands such as stay, come, and leave it.  
  • Watch for stress signs Pets who are anxious or scared may react fearfully and aggressively, triggering a fight with another animal. Watch your pet closely for stress signs when you are in busy, public places such as dog parks and pet-friendly establishments. Your pet’s stress signs may include:
    • Panting
    • Wide or darting eyes
    • Frequent yawning or scratching
    • Hyperactivity
    • Ignoring commands

Never leave your pet unattended in a vehicle

Regardless of the temperature, do not leave your unattended pet in a vehicle when you run errands. On hot days, your vehicle can rapidly become an oven, despite being parked in the shade with the windows cracked open, and your pet can quickly overheat and suffer dangerous heatstroke. Cold weather is equally dangerous for pets. Left alone in a cold car, your pet can quickly develop hypothermia, a dangerous condition that occurs when their core body temperature drops too low.

You can protect your pet from many common emergencies, but accidents can still happen. That’s where we come in. If your furry pal experiences an emergency, contact our Central Houston Animal Hospital team to ensure your pet gets the high-quality care they need.