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Hidden Dangers for Dogs: Practical Safety Tips for Dog Owners

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Owning a dog is one of the most rewarding experiences in life. When you find your perfect furry friend, you want them to be happy, healthy and share a long life together. The best way to do that is to keep them safe.

black and tan chihuahua with pink collar

Here are some safety tips to help you keep your dog safe from hidden dangers you might not have expected:

Avoid Slatted Benches

A major hidden danger that not many people do not consider are slatted benches. A slatted design is not paw friendly and has the potential to cause serious injury.

Shawn and Lindsay of Virginia took their pit bull, Thea, to lunch on the patio of a dog friendly restaurant. The chairs at the tables had slats in them. Thea likes to sit in chairs like a person, so before allowing Thea to sit beside her in the chair, Lindsay checked the slats with her fingers, which were approximately the same size as Thea’s paw pads. She could not stick a finger through the slat, so she allowed Thea to sit in the chair. They ate lunch and Thea hopped up and down in the chair several times to greet people.

When they got up to leave, Thea jumped out of the chair as she had all through lunch that day, but this time, she got two paw pads stuck in the slats of the chair. She panicked and yanked the chair across the patio, yelping at the top of her lungs. Lindsay held Thea’s leash to keep her from moving more, concerned by standers came over to help hold her still, and Shawn used ice water to wiggle her paw pads out of the chair.

She was taken to the vet immediately thereafter and amazingly did not sustain any serious injuries at the time due to her above average flexibility, but as a result of this trauma, she pulled a ligament in her leg to the point that at some point it will snap and require surgical repair.

If Thea was a smaller dog, she could have broken her toes, paw and or leg.

When taking your dog out and about on adventures, only allow them to jump up on surfaces that are solid, with no slats or holes, to prevent a similar incident.

Use Caution with Shopping Carts

chihuahua in shopping cart

Some people may take their dogs shopping and put them in a shopping cart (or a buggy if you are in the south) to ride around the store. While that may seem benign, caution must be exercised to avoid injury.

Laura of Colorado was shopping with her Dachshund, Maple, and put her in a shopping cart to ride around the store. Maple loves people and kept jumping up to say hi passers by. At one point, she got a nail wedged into one of the grooves of the shopping cart while she was jumping up to greet people. Maple panicked when she realized her paw was caught, and as a result, her nail was torn off her paw.

A good way to avoid similar injury when your dog is riding in a shopping cart is to bring a dog bed or thick blanket and place that in the shopping cart for your dog to stand on to place a barrier between grooves of the cart and your dog’s paws.

Another hazard of shopping cart riding is that a dog may jump out. Always ensure your dog is wearing a harness and secure the harness to the shopping cart on a short leash to prevent this from happening.

Always Walk Your Dog On Leash

It is in your dog’s best interests to be on a leash when going for walks unless they are in a securely fenced area actively supervised by a responsible human. Unleashed dogs are in danger of many things:

  • Getting lost.
  • Getting hit by a car.
  • Consuming a toxic substance.
  • Injuring themselves on broken glass or other hazards that a human would have guided them away from.
  • Conflicts with other dogs or wildlife which could result in serious injury or death.
  • Most states and counties have laws requiring dogs to be on leash, which makes allowing a dog off leash in public illegal in many areas.

Friends Don’t Let Friends Use Retractable Leashes

Many people do not realize that retractable leashes are a significant hidden danger to both dogs and people:

  • Retractable leashes can seriously injure a dog or human if the leash wrapped around hands, paws, arms or legs and pulled.
  • If a dog is allowed to charge at full speed and strength to the end of their retractable leash, the leash can break out of the handle and the dog run away. Or, if the human walking the dog was not prepared for the full force of the dog when the dog got to the end of the leash, they could fall, which depending on the terrain and their health, could result in a serious injury.
  • Retractable leashes allow humans walking dogs to pay less attention to the dog and focus on their cell phone or other distractions. This could result in a dog running into traffic, charging at another dog or wild animal and fighting, consuming something toxic, or injuring themselves by stepping in something that their human should have guided them away from.

Toy Dogs Should Wear A Cat Collar With A Bell

Chihuahuas, yorkies, and other small breeds that may have a tendency to get underfoot without being noticed due to their small size are at risk for suffering injuries or even dying from being kicked, stepped on, sat on, or having a door shut on them.

Sophie of Texas had a very small Chihuahua named Jelly Bean who was her shadow. One day, she thought Jelly Bean was so content napping in the sun that she would not follow her to get the mail as she usually did. However, due to her small size, she did not hear Jelly Bean following her outside. Sophie shut the door behind her and unknowingly shut the door on Jelly Bean, which resulted in her death.

By having your petite pooch wear a cat collar (or ferret collar if your dog is very tiny) with a bell, this sound can help alert humans to where the dog is to prevent accidents from happening. Be sure to get a break away cat collar, NOT a metal belt buckle style collar, as those are another hidden danger I will discuss further below.

Collars Must Have A Breakaway Feature

As the average dog owner shops for dog collars, their main focus is usually style and size. However, there is a third and very important factor to consider before putting a collar on your dog: is there a break away feature?

Carol of Michigan owned a horse farm where her doberman, Ramona, had free reign of the property. Part of the horse fields had thick trees, and Ramona was known to frequent this part of the property. Since she had free reign of the property she always wore a collar. One day no one had seen Ramona for over half the day, which was very odd because of how social she is.

When Carol went looking for her, she found her in the wooded part of the property with her collar stuck in a tree branch. Ramona’s collar was leather and had a metal belt buckle closure with no break away release, so when her collar was hooked on the tree branch, she was unable to break free.

She sustained some cuts on her neck but was overall unharmed. Luckily, Ramona stayed calm and waited for someone to help her; some dogs might have panicked and choked themselves trying to break free.

Casey of California kept a collar on her Jack Russel, Max, all the time because she thought the design was cute. Max is crated when Casey goes to work.

One day when Casey came home at lunch to take Max on his lunch time walk, she discovered he had gotten his identification tag stuck in the grid of the crate and was pinned against the wall of the crate as a result. Luckily it stuck at his height, so he did not strangle himself, but after this incident, she always removed his collar when he was crated or unsupervised.

Mariah of Louisiana had two large rescue mutts, Storm and Daisy, who loved playing together. They always wore their collars because they each had medical conditions that their collars provided notice of, which she wanted to be sure was known if they escaped or if something happened to her.

One day they were playing together in the house, and Daisy’s mandible got underneath Storm’s collar. They both panicked and tried to break free, alligator rolling, which tightened the collar across Daisy’s mandible and Storm’s neck. Daisy dislocated her jaw, and Storm was nearly strangled. Luckily Mariah was home and was able to separate the dogs, but if they had been home alone, this story could have ended very differently.

It is crucial that your dog’s collar have a break away feature so that if the collar gets stuck on something it will break off instead of strangling your dog. A collar with a metal belt buckle closure can cause your dog to suffocate, especially if the collar is made of thick leather. Since collars hold identification, it is wise to have your dog microchipped to help him be reunited with you if the collar breaks off.

Always Walk Your Dog Using A Harness Not A Collar

chihuahua in green harness

By walking a dog with a harness not a collar, you have the ability to prevent serious injury. This is very important with small breeds like chihuahuas as their necks are fragile and can be easily damaged.

Rose of Maine was walking her Pomeranian, Cookie, only using a collar. Cookie pulls consistently on walks usually, but on this particular walk Rose noticed that she was making strange noises and coughing. She rushed her to vet and discovered that Cookie’s trachea had collapsed. As a result of this incident of tracheal collapse, Cookie is now banned from wearing collars and must only wear harnesses, per her veterinarian’s orders.

Lacey of Massachusetts was walking her Bichon, Mason, using only a collar because they were just walking to the mail box. Mason saw a rabbit and started pulling to get it, and when Lacey corrected him and pulled the leash to redirect him, Mason whipped his head side to side and slipped out of the collar to charge at the rabbit. Luckily she was able to capture him quickly, avoiding him being lost or hit by a car, and avoiding the rabbit being injured.

Wearing a harness for walks instead of a collar reduces the risk of injury to a dog’s trachea and of the dog getting loose.

Use Culinary Caution

Dogs have a way of begging for food that is really hard for some humans to say no to, but in some cases, it could save their life. Dogs cannot eat many of the same foods that we can, which makes it important for humans to verify a food is safe before providing their pup a sample.

Many dogs will eat plants. Some plants are toxic for dogs, so before planting a new plant in your garden or adding a new house plant to your home, be sure to research if the plant is toxic to dogs.

It is also wise for humans to never assume that a dog would not eat a toxic chemical just because it is not food. For example, antifreeze can actually smell sweet, making this toxic substance one that is consumed by dogs more often than you would think. So never assume that a dog would not eat something; always keep toxic substances out of paw’s reach.

In the event that your dog has consumed a food, a plant or a chemical that is toxic, you should call your veterinarian immediately. If this occurs after the veterinarian’s operating hours, search for a local emergency veterinarian. If you are unable to get a response, consider contacting the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline.

Conclusion

There are many hidden dangers that can injure or kill a dog. By taking reasonable precautions, it is easy to keep your precious pup safe.

Did any of these hidden dangers surprise you? Did any of the safety tips help you? Tell me in the comments below.

Cathy

Kristina

Monday 16th of August 2021

One safety thing that was not mentioned is ticks!!! I had to take my medical alert Chihuahua "Bubbles" to an emergency veterinary because she had not been behaving normally. I thought that maybe she had a cold or something, but when I arrived at the vet's... She had lost more than 2 pounds, and had gotten so bad that I had to force fluids in her. Vet told me that if I had waited just another 24 hours, she would have died. After exrays, and bloodwork, we had a diagnosis of limes disease. It can take sometimes take a couple months to show signs. Good news is that she is doing much better now and I have learned that there is also a yearly vaccine for lime's disease. All 3 of my furbabies will be getting that vaccine at the same time that they get their rabies shot. I am more than happy to spend the extra money on that then the $3,000 that it cost for tests, meds and exrays. Don't forget to check in between your pets pads and toes.

Cathy

Monday 16th of August 2021

Yikes, that's scary about the Lyme disease. Do you remember Bubbles having a tick?

Jane Freeman

Tuesday 10th of August 2021

Beware of small white pellets to poison moles that might be sniffed out by your small dogs while walking on leash in your favorite neighborhoods.

Patricia Boston

Monday 9th of August 2021

CATHY MANY THANKS for your tip on harnesses when I first had my chi Bumble I found your letter page have read it ever since Bumble has always worn a harness thanks to your advice ps your tips are great

Cathy

Monday 9th of August 2021

You are very welcome Patricia!

Adeline Porter

Sunday 8th of August 2021

Did not no about the last chair or the breakaway collar.

Cathy

Sunday 8th of August 2021

The chair was a surprise to me when I first heard about it. I've known about the break away collars for awhile now though.

Pam R

Saturday 7th of August 2021

I didnt know about the collar choking them good info

Cathy

Saturday 7th of August 2021

I'm gkad you got some good info out of the post Pam.