5 Poisonous & Potentially Deadly Items In Your Handbag

How often have you (or your wife / girlfriend) arrived home, plonked down an open handbag on the floor or couch (within reach of any fur-kids). It’s a perfectly normal and innocent thing to do, however there could be seemingly innocuous items in the handbag that could prove deadly to your pets.


Here are 5 items that may be enticing, but harmful to your pets:

1. Sugarless Chewing Gum

If you have sugar free chewing gum, sugar free mints or nicotine gum in your handbag, chances are it contains xylitol. Ingestion of even the smallest amount of xylitol (1 or 2 pieces of gum) can send a dog into hypoglycemic shock, which is life threatening, or worse liver failure. Symptoms include loss of coordination, depression, collapse and seizures in as little as 30 minutes.

2. Hand Sanitizer

These have become fashionable products in most handbags and are used to quickly sanitise hands when soap and a tap are not easily accessible. The alcohol level in hand sanitizers is dangerously high. Whilst that’s good for killing germs, it’s dangerous if ingested by your pet as it could cause hypoglycemic shock (a dangerous drop in your pet’s blood sugar level) which could lead to coma and death.

3. Cigarettes & Nicotine Products

We all know that smoking and nicotine is bad for us; however few people know that a small dog can die from ingesting just 3 cigarettes. This makes nicotine gum extremely dangerous as it not only contains nicotine, but also xylitol.

4. Headache Tablets & Anti-Inflammatories

Most pills come in plastic bottles / containers which when tossed around make an intriguing noise to most inquisitive dogs or cats. Once chewed open the pills inside are sometimes candy coated which makes them palatable and seemingly tasty treats. Tablets containing Ibuprofen are EXTREMELY toxic and emergency medical attention will be required. Symptoms include vomiting, loss of co-ordination and balance, stomach ulcers and liver failure.

5. Asthma Inhalers

If your dog bites into an asthma inhaler it will result in life threatening poisoning. When the inhaler is punctured it dispenses a large dose of albuterol into the dog’s mouth and nose. This massive dose causes toxicity by quickly elevating the heart rate to life-threatening levels, drops potassium levels dangerously low and leads to extreme weakness, lack of coordination. If not treated urgently by a veterinarian, death could result.

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Pet Safety At Home Over The Holiday Period Part 4 – Visitors

This is a challenge not everyone faces as some pets love visitors and behave very well when visitors are around. If this is the case, then you’re in the fortunate position of only having to worry about your visitors behaviour and not your pets! Other pets however may be fearful, aggressive or be so full of holiday cheer that they become over-exuberant and just about obliterate your guests. You know your dogs best, so plan accordingly.

If your dog is a rescue with a background of abuse, it may be best to prepare a quiet room, away from the commotion with his blanket, favourite toys, water and food available. This should make him feel safe and less fearful of the onslaught of guests.

If you have exuberant dogs, on the other hand, you may want to do a refresher course on obedience before the holidays which will help keep them calm, more in control and less excitable. It’s always a good idea to take them for a walk before the guests arrive so that they expend most of their energy on the walk and not in flattening your guests. Its important however to let your visitors know of any household rules regarding your pets, like not leaving gates open, being aware of them sneaking out, not allowing them to jump on the couch and not feeding them from the table, not feeding them at all. We have a rather interesting one at our house – not leaving the toilet seat cover up. Our Bruno has a disgusting habit of drinking from the toilet … delightful! Defining the house rules with guests is particularly important if they are going to be staying at your home for a few days.

If you’re planing to spring clean the house in preparation for the guests arriving, be aware that certain cleaning products and disinfectants may be toxic for your pets. Be particularly aware of what you use to clean the floor in the kitchen and dining areas, as accidental spills will be temping for your dogs and cats to lick up.

With all of the festivities, guests and general chaos that surrounds the holiday season don’t forget to relax and spend some quality time with your pets. They will think that is the best gift of all!

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Pet Safety At Home Over The Holiday Period Part 3 – The Gifts

Gifts Under The Tree

Gifts left under the tree can be extremely tempting, especially if they are made up of rawhide or other edible items, such as home made biscuits from Aunt Betty or the box of chocolates from Granny Liz. Most often they also have pretty ribbon as part of the wrapping which could be hazzardous. It is best to place gifts under the tree only once you are able to supervise pets and children around the tree which is normally just before they are opened.

If you have decided to include your pet in the Christmas festivities (as we do) and have bought your pet a gift, make sure you remove ribbons or ties before you present gifts to them. If played with and swallowed, yarn, ribbon or string on gifts can cause intestinal obstruction, requiring emergency surgery.

Perfumes and after-shaves most often contain ethanol (alcohol) and perfumes also contain essential oils to give them their scent, which can be very toxic to pets if ingested.

Toys and gifts which contain batteries can be hazzardous in that the batteries are extremely toxic and can also cause intestinal obstruction if swallowed. Keep batteries separately in a safe place until they are ready to be inserted in the gift.

Pet Gifts and Treats

When choosing a holiday gift for your special friend, be sure it is safe – no small pieces that could come off and be swallowed. Choose healthy holiday treats for your pets and give them in moderation. If you’re unsure of what toys and treats are safe for your pets, visit a pet product store or better yet, purchase them online from a reputable online pet product store like PetPickings.com and have the products shipped to you.

Pets As Gifts

Giving a pet (puppy / kitten etc) as a gift is never a good idea, as it is a very personal choice and ultimately it is the pet that suffers for it. If someone is thinking about getting a new pet, rather give them a variety of toys, food, or books on pet care. You may also wish to give a gift certificate to purchase needed supplies once they have selected and brought home their new family member.

Similarly, if thinking about getting a new pet for yourself, remember pets are a responsibility and need routine, a time to bond with you, and are for life! Keeping this in mind, unless you are prepared to tone down the holiday spirit, it may be best to introduce a new ‘furkid’ to your family after the holidays once everything has calmed down.

You can also make the holidays more enjoyable for homeless pets, by contacting your local animal shelter or SPCA to see if you can donate food, kitty litter, toys or time. In addition, if you are able to limit the holiday disruption in your home, you may even consider fostering a pet over the holiday season and in doing so save a life. Sadly the number of unwanted pets soars in the all the shelters around the country during holiday which means an increase in the euthanasia numbers as the facilities reach full capacity. Fostering a pet, frees up that space at the shelter. There are a number of rescue organisations that have no kennels and are only able to rescue animals when they have a foster home available to take them in. Two that we work closely with are African Tails and Aniwell.

With all the holiday excitement, remember to relax and spend some quality time with your family, including your pets this holiday season. Your pets will think that is the best gift of all!

“Pet Safety At Home Over The Holiday Period Part 4 – Visitors” follows on Monday!

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Pet Safety At Home Over The Holiday Period Part 2 – The Christmas Tree

A week into December and the beginning of the holiday season means Christmas trees. With all the excitement, all too often the last thing that is on anyone’s mind is the safety of their pets.

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how careful we must be. Christmas trees and their decorations can be extremely hazardous for pets. We have provided some pointers on how to enjoy your Christmas tree whilst keeping your pets (and toddlers!) safe over the festive season. We don’t want any emergency vet visits over the holidays!

  • Place your Christmas tree in a broad, stable stand and attach the tree from the trunk securely to a burglar bar, hook in the wall or anything secure with something like fishing nylon that isn’t too visible. Some people even choose to place the tree inside a child’s play pen, but that’s a personal choice and not everyone has a child’s play pen around. Even though precautions may have been taken, always make sure that your pets are supervised when in a room with a tree.
  • Not many people know that pine tree needles can be toxic, contain traces of insecticides and cause mouth and stomach irritation. Even the needles and the wire of the artificial trees could pose a problem. Be sure your pet isn’t chewing on any branches or eating fallen needles.
  • Shiny and glittery tinsel is eye catching and very attractive to a curious pet. When eaten / swallowed, it can cause blockages which sometimes require emergency surgery to remove. Rather be safe and leave it off the tree altogether.
  • Angel hair and artificial snow are mildly toxic. If consumed in larger amounts, they too can cause a blockage of the intestine which is life threatening and often requires surgical intervention. We live in Africa where there is no snow in December, so our suggestion is to rather leave it off altogether.
  • Make sure that any electrical cords for the Christmas lights are tucked away behind furniture and out of reach. Chewing on electrical cords is common, especially with puppies / kittens and can cause major problems ranging from burned mouths, to electric shock and even death by electrocution. If you have larger lights on your tree, these can become very hot and also cause burns. It is best to unplug decorative lights when you are not in the room and encase exposed extension cords in PVC piping.
  • Those glass glitter balls on the tree may be beautiful, but they also look almost exactly like Fido’s favourite ball outside – well to him anyway. Dogs are often rushed into the emergency vet with serious mouth lacerations or worse – ingestion of glass, after playing with glass ornaments. Sharp ornament hooks can also become imbedded in your pet’s mouth, throat or stomach. Any ornaments that are shiny or could be swallowed or broken should be placed high up on your tree – well out of reach. Larger, less intriguing ornaments can go near the bottom.
  • Those chocolate decorations – snowmen, balls etc … gingerbread men, or any food decoration may be fun, but is asking for problems. Candy canes and gingerbread men can be as enticing to your dog as they are to children. This means that they can get amazingly creative in order to reach those delectable treats on the tree and you could run into, at best, tummy issues from candy / biscuits or worse poisoning from any chocolate, raisins etc … If your pet is a diabetic it could be fatal. Food is best left off the tree altogether.

With all of the festivities, do not forget to relax and spend some quality time with your family, which includes your pets. Your pets will think that is the best gift of all and will reward you with lots of love in return. We would like to wish everyone a peaceful and happy time over the festive season.

“Pet Safety At Home Over The Holiday Period Part 3 -  Gifts” follows tomorrow.

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Pet Safety At Home Over The Holiday Period Part 1 – Decorations & Wrappings

December marks the beginning of the holiday season which everybody welcomes after a busy year and, for those of us who are staying home, also means a time of parties, rich foods, streams of visitors, relatives from out of town, Christmas decorations, pointsettias, shopping trips, present wrapping and general festivities. With all the excitement, all too often the last thing that is on anyone’s mind is the safety of their pets.

We want the holidays to be a happy time for you and your pets, not a time for an emergency visit to your veterinarian. The food and decorations that make the festive season so much fun for us can be extremely dangerous for your pet. Whilst we don’t want to ruin the holiday spirit, we do want you to be aware of the potential dangers and plan carefully to avoid these potential hazards. This is the first of a 4 part series. Wishing you all a safe and happy holiday!

Decorations and Wrappings

  1. All that glitters is not gold. Whilst it is pretty to look at, for a quizzy dog or cat, especially puppies and kittens glittery decorations attract their attention and could potentially be dangerous for your pet. Tinsel, glitter balls (often made of glass) etc … should all be placed well out of reach.
  2. If you use ribbons, yarn and string when wrapping gifts, keep in mind that it can cause intestinal obstruction if swallowed and can sometimes require surgery or be fatal. Ribbons around your dog or cat’s neck may be cute, but are never a good idea as they too can be dangerous, especially if the ribbon gets caught on something or your pet decides to chew on the loose ends.
  3. Adhesives and glues are often toxic and can be attractive to pets, so please don’t leave them lying around.
  4. Potpourri contains oils that can be toxic to dogs if eaten. Whilst we may enjoy the smell and not think of eating it, a quizzy pet may think differently and decide to sample it.
  5. Candles can cause burns and fires. Never leave lit candles unattended or within nose reach or tail reach of your pet. Our Pit Bull Bruno has an overactive “happy” tail, so we’re always careful of not to leave glasses and candles on the edge of coffee tables that can get easily ‘swished’ off by a wagging tail. We also have 3 hyperactive kittens in the house that sometimes skid onto tables.
  6. Few things are more tempting to a playful dog (or cat) than a game of tug-of-war. The dangling ends of a table cloth may look very tempting to your pooch. Try to keep items such as tablecloths and table runners from hanging too low to the floor as the temptation may be too great for a happy dog to grab, or for an excitable kitty to claw.
  7. We all like making our homes more festive and decorative for the holidays. We enjoy the green foliage and colorful flowers of plants, however many of the plants we have in our homes during the holidays can be poisonous to pets. Poisonous plants, such as  holly (leaves and berries), if ingested will cause stomach upset and can be potentially fatal to both dogs and cats. Mistletoe causes stomach upsets and can cause heart collapse, while hibiscus may cause diarrhea. Poinsettias have an irritating sap that can cause blistering in the mouth and stomach upset. Place these plants well out of your dog or cat’s reach or alternatively use the various and often very pretty imitation holiday plants.

With all of the festivities, do not forget to relax and spend some quality time with your pet. Your dog will think that is the best gift of all. We would like to wish everyone a peaceful and happy time over the festive season.

“Pet Safety At Home Over The Holiday Period Part 2 -  The Christmas Tree” follows tomorrow.

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Survival Guide for Guy Fawkes – Keeping Your Pet Safe

I hate this time of year, as not everyone is responsible and considers the welfare of pets (including their own), let alone obeys the laws when it comes to the use of fireworks and fire crackers. Ironically most people don’t know what Guy Fawkes is all about and I won’t bore you with the details (click on the Guy Fawkes link for more info), yet they still insist on callously letting off fireworks and fire crackers in the name of “fun”, terrorising our normally confident, well-adjusted pets and turning them into quivering, nervous wrecks in the process. With this in mind and with Guy Fawkes coming up on 5th November I thought I would share some useful information on how to keep your pets safe and hopefully calmer.

It’s a known fact that more dogs, cats and sometimes even horses and livestock are lost and/or injured when there are fireworks or fire crackers being used, as they panic and bolt, sometimes smashing through windows, breaking tethers and jumping over high fences / walls, running blindly in front of cars and injuring themselves in the process.

We always keep our pets safely indoors and stay home during Guy Fawkes and New Year, but even then our Pit Bull Bruno pants, barks, runs around in circles and shivers, whilst our Jack Russell Kira quivers and whines. Our clowder of 5 cats hide away and have increased hit-or-miss litter box ‘accidents’, so all in all it’s not a pleasant time for any of us.

So here are some well documented, tried and tested (by ourselves) methods to calm panicked pets:

  1. If you know or suspect that your pet is going to fret or panic about any fireworks or fire crackers, stay at home and keep your pets inside the house with you.
  2. If you don’t know how your pet is going to react or aren’t sure, keep him indoors. Don’t assume that because he’s a happy dog, that he won’t be frightened to death. Both of our dogs are registered therapy dogs, for which they tested under strange and unusual circumstances, but are still terrified when the fireworks starts.
  3. If it’s impossible to be home with them, keep them inside and in a room where they can’t jump out of a window (even a closed one), preferably where the windows are set too high – eg: kitchen
  4. Put comforting and familiar things around him – toys, bedding etc …
  5. Just in case, ensure he has clear identification (microchips / collars or both).
  6. Before the fireworks starts, take your pet for a nice long walk (on a leash), play with him in your garden or give him mental challenge such as training session with favourite commands with yummy treats. Much like a panicked brain cannot think, a tired body and tired brain is much less likely to go into full blown panic mode.
  7. Give him a hearty and nutritious meal around sunset, which will make him more sleepy and relaxed.
  8. Provide him with something to do – safe chew toy, hoof, catnip toy, catnip spray …
  9. Scared pets often calm themselves by squeezing into tight spots or under blankets and hiding their eyes. Offer them a safe hiding place and leave them be … even if it means having a little face in your armpit!
  10. If you can, dim the lights to create a more calming environment for your pet – unless of course he’s frightened of the dark.
  11. Avoid fussing and baby talk, as this reinforces his fear behaviour. It communicates to him that he has reason to be frightened. Instead be casual and matter of fact. When you hear a ‘boom’, acknowledge the noise with a casual and normal tone “My goodness that was loud, but see it doesn’t bother me. Nothing to worry about.”
  12. Camouflage the sound with ‘white noise’ – radio tuned to static can work quite well or soothing music. The idea is not to drown out the sound completely so do not play it loudly, but simply to camouflage it / detract from it.
  13. If your pets are known to react badly and cannot be calmed despite using these suggestions, speak to your veterinarian who may prescribe a mild tranquiliser for your pet (and perhaps one for you!).

For information on the laws surrounding the use of fireworks and fire crackers in a residential area, please contact your local SPCA or police station. If in Cape Town, you can contact Cape of Good Hope SPCA.

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