Every year, over 18,000 people die as a result of accidents or injuries in their own home. As you try to make things as safe as possible for your family, be sure to consider potential dangers in your house for your pets. As veterinarians, we caution people daily about common hazards that threaten the safety of animals while they are inside.
Most people think of the kitchen as the most dangerous room in the house. While that may be true for humans, the bathroom is one of the primary danger zones for dogs and cats. Bathroom cabinets often contain medications and prescriptions that are helpful to humans, but can be deadly to your pet. Although there are exceptions, veterinarians like to say there are NO human medications that are considered safe for pets. All medications should be kept in a secure cabinet or closet with a doorknob.
Next, look around at your bathroom countertops. Pill containers smell like our hands or our lotion, and that makes them very tempting for the family dog to chew. Pets will eat hearing aid batteries if accessible from a counter top or dropped on the floor. Why not, the batteries smell like earwax, right? Hair ties are extremely enticing to cats. Many will snatch them off the counter and carry them around in their mouths. Some cats will eat them. Hair bows and any type of ribbon can be dangerous to cats and cause intestine damage. Birth control pills and vitamins on the bathroom counter also pose a danger. Many human vitamins come in chewable or gummy form now and a dog will eat a whole bottle at once if given the chance. That is definitely too much of a good thing.
If the cabinet doors under your bathroom counter don’t close tightly, animals can easily open them and get inside. All cleaning supplies are poisonous to pets, but drain cleaners and toilet bowl cleaners are especially toxic. While it may take extra steps on cleaning day, those supplies are safest kept in one place completely out of the reach of pets. You can also use safety latches for “child-proofing” cabinets so they can’t be pried open by a curious animal.
The bathroom floor can present definite hazards for pets. Remember to pick up your socks and underwear and immediately put them in the hamper. Those articles of clothing have the highest concentration of our scent, and dogs will eat them before you can even get your hair wet in the shower. Although some dogs will vomit them or pass them through, swallowed clothing is one of the most common causes of emergency surgery to remove intestinal obstructions.
Lastly, don’t forget about the bathroom trash can. There is nothing we throw away in the bathroom trash that a dog won’t eat. It can be as harmless as eating a single used tissue or as horrifying as devouring a used diaper or personal hygiene product. Used dental floss is probably the single most dangerous object for dogs and cats. It tastes good to them because it is flavored and has also been in your mouth, but dental floss will bind and slice through the intestines of any pet, causing severe illness.
Taking a pet-based look around your bathroom will make it a safer place for your pet, and remember to keep the door closed and the lid down for everyone’s happiness.
Originally published August 2016 in the Lake Norman Citizen.