Storing Chemicals and Allergens Safely for Your Pets
How safe is your home? If you’re like most homeowners, you work hard to make sure that it's a safe place for yourself, your family and your pets. Yet many pet owners are unaware of the risks in their home that put their pet's life at risk every single day. Even seemingly harmless items, like the food you feed your family, can pose a serious risk to your pets.
Statistics specific to pet poisoning are difficult to come by, but in 2010, the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center received over 167,000 calls for pet poisoning. Of these, the majority of the poisonings were from medications - including both prescription and over-the-counter medicines - but a surprising number were related to plants, cleaners, and other common household items. Thousands of more animals were exposed to poisons but were treated by their local veterinarians and not included in this report. On top of that, non-toxic items that would not poison your pet can cause serious and uncomfortable allergic reactions if your pet accesses them, creating even more risk. You need to know what these items are and how to properly store them in order to keep your home and your pets safe.
As you can see, your home holds some very real risks for your pet. The good news is that by informing yourself about these risks, you can take the steps you need to take to protect your pet. This guide is intended to show you the risks hiding in your home, and the steps you can take to protect your pets from exposure.
Chemicals and Household Products – Know the Risk and How to Store Common Household Items
Household chemicals are a danger to everyone, from children to pets. Unfortunately, pets cannot read warning labels, and many chemicals are in containers that are interesting to chew or play with. All it takes is a few moments for your pet to lick something that's potentially deadly, leaving you rushing to the vet in a panic.
The good news is you can take measures to protect your pet not just by keeping your pet supervised, but also by keeping chemicals out of reach through proper storage. The key to this is understanding the danger and how to go about protecting your pets is critical if you are going to keep your pets safe. These tips will help you store items out of reach so your pet can enjoy your home safely.
In the Kitchen
The kitchen is one area where many people choose to store their cleaning materials, particularly because there are so many messes in the kitchen. Here are some tips to keeping your kitchen cleaners pet-safe.
- In the kitchen, store cleaners out or reach. Common cleaners you may have in your kitchen that could hurt your dog or cat include all-purpose cleaners, bleach, disinfecting wipes, drain clog openers, glass cleaner, counter cleaning chemicals and air fresheners.
- Know the dangerous ingredients to watch for. Certain ingredients in household chemicals should raise a red flag in your mind. These include ammonia, chlorine, glycol ethers, formaldehyde and bleach. Any chemicals with one of these ingredients must be kept out of reach.
- If your dog or cat gets on the counters, be careful about the use of counter cleaning chemicals. Pets often lick the counters to get food debris, and they will also get the debris of the cleaning products when they do. Consider using safer cleaning products, like vinegar and water, to disinfect counters.
- Place cleaning chemicals on a high shelf. This will prevent accidents should your dog or cat get into a cabinet that is lower to the ground. Remember, you can't trust your family to always remember to close the cabinet doors.
- Use a baby lock to prevent access to chemicals. Most baby locks are pet-proof as well, so locking the cabinet will ensure that the pet does not get into the cabinet when you aren't around.
- Insist that cleaning chemicals are stored in the proper place. Even the best measures to protect your pet will fail if you don't insist that your family use the cabinet and lock it properly. Cleaning chemicals should never be left unattended in your home, as it just takes a minute for a curious pet to get access to them.
- Never leave water with cleaning chemicals accessible. Filling a bucket with cleaner and warm water or filling the sink and then leaving the room not only gives your pet access to the cleaner, and in an enticing setting that may make it more likely that your pet will drink it, but it also poses a risk for drowning. If you need to use a bucket or sink with chemicals and water, stay close.
On the Floors
The products you use to clean your floor are some you definitely need to watch out for, because your pet spends most of his time on the floor. Here are some tips.
- Use carpet refreshers sparingly. Freshly applied powder on paws that are then licked could cause stomach upset. However, if you vacuum up the freshener right away, your pet should not have any trouble. Keep your pet out of the room while you use the product.
- Choose pet-safe carpet shampoos. Thankfully, most carpet shampoos are pet-safe, but make sure you allow the carpets to dry completely before your pet accesses the area, just to ensure your pet does not get any skin irritation from the cleaner.
- Be cautious with hard floor cleaners. If you have heard about the Swiffer Wet Jet causing pets to die due to toxic chemicals, do not worry. These products are fairly mild and should not hurt your cat or dog. However, skin irritation and stomach upset an occur if many floor cleaners are ingested, so don't let your dog or cat lick the floor while it's wet. Other hard floor cleaners can be problematic, but you are safe if you make your own cleaner using baking soda and vinegar.
In the Bathroom
The bathroom is another place where toxic chemicals may reside. Here are some tips to help keep your pet safe:
- Keep all medications out of reach. Medications often smell or taste good to pets, and many are very dangerous. You should never give human medications to a pet, but if your pet gets one accidentally, the results could be fatal. A magnetic or locked medicine cabinet is essential, and make sure medications are as high up as possible. Never leave medications on the bathroom counter.
- Store bathroom chemicals in a locked cabinet. If you store cleaners in the bathroom, keep them locked up.
- Do not use toilet bowl cleaners that stay in the bowl. Most pets view the toilet bowl as a source of fresh, clean drinking water. The toilet bowl cleaners that clean with each flush add toxins to that water, and you may not always be able to keep your pet away. The good news is that these products will typically only create a little digestive upset, but you're best avoiding them if you can. Instead, clean the toilet regularly with products that you flush when you are done.
- Keep your pet out of the room when you need to spray cleaning products. This will ensure they are safe while you are cleaning.
- Store bath and body products away from pets, and never use them on your pet without asking the vet first. While these won't likely make your pet sick unless they are consumed in large quantities, they can cause skin irritation, because an animal's body chemistry is much different than a human's. Even gentle baby shampoo is 150 times too acidic for a dog's skin, so keep the bath and body products out of reach.
- Understand that e-cigarettes are a serious risk to pets. If you use these and store any of their components around the house, keep them under lock and key, particularly as their fragrances might attract your pets.
In the Garage and Laundry
The garage is a particularly dangerous area for your pet. Here are some of the worst risks you need to be aware of.
- Know the poisons in the garage. Pesticides, antifreeze, chemical fertilizers, gasoline, windshield washer fluid, ice melt, and kerosene are all potentially deadly to a dog or cat. Paint and glue, which may be stored in the garage, are also risks. These items need to be up and out of reach.
- Watch out for dripping vehicles. Storing chemicals out of reach is critical, but if your car is dripping antifreeze or oil, and your pet licks the spill, you have another risk. These spots are tempting to pets, so keep them cleaned up. Antifreeze is particularly damaging because it has a sweet smell and taste that's tempting to pets, and they are more prone to lick it. If you can, keep your pet away from the garage for any extended periods of time.
- Avoid putting pesticides and insecticides on lawns where pets play. Yes, pests in your lawn are a problem, but if your pets play out there, you don't want to spray the lawn with chemicals.
- Do not place rodenticides where your pets can access them. If you have a rodent problem, use mousetraps or call a pro. If you must use rodenticides, use them only in areas you are certain your pet cannot access, and store them in a sealed container in a locked cabinet or high shelf.
- Keep pool cleaning chemicals in a locked shed. These are often accessible in the backyard, but if your pet has access to the backyard, you must lock them up. These corrosive chemicals are deadly to pets.
- Keep your pet out of the laundry room, if possible. Do you really want pet hair on your freshly laundered clothing? If you can, just keep your pet out. This means you may need a new location for his sleeping area or litter box.
- Store laundry soap, dryer sheets and detergent pods out of reach. Detergent pods are particularly problematic, because they look like fun toys and are packed with chemicals that could be hazardous to your pet.
- Look for warning labels. Products don't have to be labeled as dangerous for pets, even if they are, so you need to look diligently for warning labels. If you see "DANGER" or "CAUTION" on a product, it needs to be stored in an inaccessible place, because it's probably a caustic or corrosive chemical which will harm your pet.
- Be careful with batteries. If a dog chews something that contains a battery, and the battery is punctured, the dog's mouth can be burned. If the dog swallows a button battery, the results can be fatal. Store batteries out of reach and items that your dog may be tempted to chew, like the TV remote, on a high shelf.
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Foods and Pets – Know What to Avoid and How to Store It
When your dog is sitting at your feet looking at you with those big "puppy dog" eyes, how can you say no? If you're like most pet owners, you are going to sneak a treat or to to your pup from time to time. Even if you don't intend to give your dog or cat people food, they are going to snag something once in a while.
Keeping pets away from people food is not always easy. For cat owners, the job is a little easier, simply because cats are less tempted by smells and tastes than dogs, but for dog owners, the job can feel nearly impossible. A dog that catches a whiff of something tasty is going to be hard to deter. Sadly, many human foods are toxic to animals, and you may be poisoning your pet without knowing it simply because you're letting him get a little bit of people food. So to make sure you are taking the best possible care of your pet, here's what you need to know about food and how to keep it stored safely away from your pet.
What Foods to Avoid
- Avoid coffee, chocolate and other foods with caffeine. These foods all have methylxanthines. These substances found in cacao seeds cause vomiting and diarrhea when ingested by pets. They can also cause heart problem, excessive thirst and hyperactivity. If a pet ingests a lot of one of these substances, the results can be fatal. Even just 1.5 ounces of super-dark chocolate can cause a small dog to have a seizure.
- Watch for sugar-free foods. Xylitol, a common low-calorie sugar substitute, is found in everything from toothpaste to breath mints and gum. It is potentially fatal to pets.
- Read the peanut butter label. Dogs love peanut butter, but many peanut butters use xylitol to cut down on sugar and calories. Always read the label before giving your dog any peanut butter to avoid exposure to this.
- Keep citrus out of reach. All parts of most citrus plants, including the peel, leaves, stems and seeds, contain citric acid. This oil can cause central nervous system damage in large quantities. To be safe, keep these out of reach of your pets.
- Grapes and raisins need to be avoided. These fruits can cause kidney failure, though how much is a problem for dogs remains to be seen.
- Don't give the cat a saucer of milk. Both cats and dogs have trouble processing lactose, so that saucer of milk is not actually a treat to your furry friend.
- Keep the seasonings at bay. Onions, garlic and chives are all excellent for seasoning your food, but they are damaging to your pet's digestive systems and red blood cells. This is more of a risk for cats than dogs, but both are at risk.
- Macadamia nuts are best avoided. These nuts cause vomiting, tremors, hyperthermia and weakness in dogs, so keep them stored tight.
- Even safe foods, like meat, can be dangerous. Meat with a high fat content, for example, can easily cause problems for your pet if ingested in large quantities.
How to Protect Your Pet
Knowing these hazards is the first step, but you also need to know what to do to protect your pet. Here are some ideas.
- Keep food off the counters. Not only will this help your kitchen look cleaner, but it will also help protect your pet. Keep food off of the counters when you are not actively eating or cooking it.
- Place deadly foods in a high cupboard or locked pantry. Foods that can be fatal should be high and out of reach, because curious dogs and cats sometimes get into cabinets in search of a treat.
- Use a baby lock. If you can, put a baby lock on the food cabinet to prevent a curious pet from getting inside.
- Clean up spills promptly. If you spill food, clean it up promptly.
- Avoid giving your pet table scraps. Don't give your pet table scraps, and she won't be accustomed to getting treats from off the table.
- Store purses and backpacks, places where gum and candy may hide, on hooks or in closets. This is often where a dog or cat gets into sugar-free or chocolate items, even in the most careful of homes. Always make a rule that these bags must get zipped before setting them down as well.
- Use sealed containers to hold items you know are dangerous. Sometimes just keeping them in the box or bag they came in is not sufficient, particularly if you have a curious or naughty dog on your hands. Instead, invest in some plastic sealed containers that will contain the food and its smell.
- Make sure the trash has a sealed lid. Many pets get into the garbage to access the foods they shouldn't have, so store kitchen trash in a container with a tightly sealing lid. If this isn't possible, use a small trash can under the sink and install a baby lock on the cabinet.
For more information about protecting your dog or cat from dangerous human foods, visit:
Keeping Your Pet Safe from Plants
If you have been a pet owner for long, chances are you've already given some thought to the dangers of household chemicals and researched the foods that your pet can or cannot have. Yet there's another risk in your home that you may not be aware of, and that is the risk from plants. Houseplants can freshen the air in your home and make it look fresh and inviting, but some come with a risk. Many common houseplants are highly toxic to pets, and the dirt or fertilizers they use are dangerous to plants. In fact, ingesting any plant material from a house plant, even if the plant isn't toxic, can cause digestive upset in dogs and cats. Many pets have allergies to plants and plant pollen that are irritated by even the safest plants. That said, certain plants can actually be fatal if ingested, and you need to know what these are so you can avoid bringing them into your home.
In order to avoid this risk, you need to first identify the risky plants, and then you need to know what measure to take to avoid exposure and overall plant-based allergies for your pet.
Common Houseplants That Are Toxic to Plants
- Be careful with the aloe vera. Having aloe vera in your home means you have a quick resource when you have a burn to treat. Just cut off a leaf and rub some of the juice on your skin, and viola, your burn has been treated. The gel from the plant is safe for pets, but if your pet ingests a leaf, it will cause irritation of the digestive system.
- Avoid bringing ivy into the house. Falling down from a bookshelf, ivy is an elegant houseplant, but eating it will cause problems for your dog or cat, including paralysis, coma and breathing difficulties. Remember that ivy is often found outdoors as well.
- Watch out for philodendron. Low maintenance makes the philodendron popular, but it will cause mouth and tongue swelling, digestive concerns, spasms and seizures if your pet eats it. Be cautious of this one in yards as well as in homes.
- Avoid planting elephant ear. The colorful leaves of Elephant Ear, also known as Caladium, causes the same burning and swelling of the mouth that other poisonous houseplants cause.
- Be cautious with Devil's Ivy. This particular plant is popular because it's hard to kill and its leaves have a lovely veined appearance, but it will cause your pet's mouth to swell and burn if eaten.
- Know the dangers of holiday plants. During the holidays, it's common to bring plants into the home that you don't normally have. Many are poisonous to both dogs and cants. Amaryllis is toxic to cats, and mistletoe has strong toxicity potential. Poinsettias can cause excessive drooling in cats or stomachache in dogs, but thankfully it does not taste good so they usually leave it alone. Live trees don't pose a hazard, but their stand reservoirs can harbor bacteria and fungi, which are dangerous if the dog or cat tries to drink the water, so keep them covered.
- Be judicious about Dumb Cane. Like many of the plants on this list, Dumb Cane, also known as Dieffenbachia, can cause mouth and tongue swelling. However, this plant causes swelling so severe it can create breathing difficulties, with can be fatal.
- Know the toxicity of the ZZ plant. Because it lives well in no light, the ZZ plant is popular with apartment dwellers and homeowners in homes with minimal light. Thankfully it's not fatal if ingested, but it will cause stomach upset.
How to Reduce Your Pet's Risk
- Choose safer houseplants. Houseplants don't have to be a risk. Pet-safe, popular plants include bamboo, Ponytail Palm, Hens and Chicks, Burro's Tail and Blue Echeveria.
- Call the Animal Poison Control Center if you suspect poisoning. The number is 1-888-426-4435 and the cost for the all is $65. You will get instant information about what to do for your pet to reduce toxicity from exposure.
- Clean up from the plant well. If the plant drops leaves or flowers, clean them up to avoid exposing your pet to allergens or toxins unnecessarily.
- Understand about plants and pet allergies. Sometimes the problems pets pose aren't toxicity, but rather allergens. Common plants to cause allergies in pets include dahlias, marigolds, wildflowers, bamboo palm, dracaena and chrysanthemums. Many of these are outdoor plants, so you will need to be careful when allowing your pet time outside. If you suspect your dog or cat is allergic to a plant, try to avoid exposure to it as much as possible.
- Keep them inaccessible. Put houseplants well out of reach of your dog or cat to prevent problems, but still enjoy the ambiance they provide to your home.
- Prevent your pet from accessing garden areas in your home. Many outdoor garden plants are dangerous and tempting to plants. Even just digging in the soft soil of a garden can cause exposure. Use fencing and barricades to keep your pet out of your planted areas. As an added bonus, your garden will stay in better shape if you're not letting your dog or cat into it.
For more information about your pet and plants and the risks they pose, visit:
Allergens and Pets – What You Need to Know
Allergens can be quite problematic for pets and pet owners. On one hand, some pets have allergies that cause adverse reactions that are concerning to owners. In fact, estimates show that around 10 percent of dogs will develop allergies, and some of these have serious allergies that cause extreme discomfort. On the other hand, some owners discover they have allergies to their pets after welcoming a pet into the home. Again, about 10 percent of people have allergies to common household pets. Either way, you need to know what to do to deal with allergens as you live with a pet in the home. Allergies are miserable for anyone who suffers, whether pet or human, so here are some tips to help.
Helping Pets with Allergies
If your pet is suffering from allergies, the symptoms can be quite intense. Here are some tips to help.
- Know the signs of allergies for your pet. Even safe houseplants can cause allergies. Signs of problems include sneezing, wheezing, itchy eyes, watery eyes, eye discharge, coughing, and skin irritation. Dogs with contact allergies may develop hot spots, have swollen pads, or be prone to excessive pad licking. If you're noticing these problems, visit your vet to see what the allergen may be, and take measures to reduce your pet's exposure to the allergen.
- Use filtration to reduce pollen counts in the house. If you suspect that your dog or cat has a plant allergy, invest in an HVAC filter that will reduce pollen counts and allergens in your indoor air. An air cleaner may also help.
- Learn to monitor pollen counts. If your pet's allergy appears to be connected to pollen, avoid outdoor time when pollen counts are high, or plan to clean your pet well after being outside on high pollen count days.
- Wash your pet after exposure to an allergen. If your pet is exposed to a plant you suspect is an allergen, wipe him down with pet-safe wipes or a wet washcloth. This will get any pollen or debris off of your pet's coat. When the allergies seem particularly bad, wipe your pet down several times a day, regardless of exposure.
- Spray your pet's coat with a topical allergy spray. You can buy medicated sprays or you can make one with aloe, oatmeal and water. This mixture will help keep pollen from sticking to the coat and skin.
- Use booties if your pet seems to be allergic to something outdoors. Often the culprit is grass, and your pet cannot help but touch the grass when spending time outside. Placing booties on the feet can help reduce discomfort.
- Use over-the-counter allergy medications. Only with the advice of a doctor, use antihistamines, like Benadryl, that are considered safe for dogs. It's critical that you talk to the vet first to administer the proper dosage.
- Consider a change in diet. Sometimes the allergen is not plants and pollen, but rather something in your pet's food. To find a food allergy, you will need to remove all foods except a specially prescribed food from your vet. If this clears the symptoms, then you will slowly reintroduce old foods until you spot the allergen. If not, then you will need to look for the allergen elsewhere.
- Bathe your pet weekly to reduce allergens in the coat. However, use hypoallergenic shampoo to avoid irritating any irritated skin.
- Clean your house well. Many pets are not allergic to pollen, but rather to dust and dust mites. The better you clean your house, the less of a problem your pet may have with allergies.
Helping People with Pet Allergies
What can you do if someone in your home is diagnosed with a pet allergy? Pet allergies are a reaction to pet dander, not pet fur, so you will need to know what to do to avoid exposure to the dander. With these tips, you can decrease the suffering and still enjoy your pet in the home.
- Start on allergy medication, and take it every day. Sometimes this is all that is necessary to stop the allergy symptoms. Talk to your vet about the best possible allergy medicine for your particular set of symptoms.
- Keep the pet out of your bedroom. If you have a place you can escape, especially for sleep, where your pet's dander is not present, you may find your symptoms much less bothersome.
- Install a HEPA air filtration system. These systems will pull much of the pet dander out of the air in your home, helping you breathe just a little more freely.
- Clean, clean and clean again. The more you clean your home, the less exposure to dander you will struggle with, so become a routine cleaner. Vacuum regularly and consider shampooing the rug regularly as well. Wipe down walls where your pet rubs, and change bedding frequently.
- Wash your hands and change your clothes after play sessions. Washing your hands more frequently will help reduce your exposure to pet allergens. Make sure you wash after you interact with your pet. If you've played with your pet for a while, changing clothes can help.
- Consider allergy shots. If your allergies aren't responding to these tips, consider allergy shots. This form of allergen immunotherapy can make your symptoms virtually disappear.
- Have someone who is not allergic brush the pet outdoors. This will remove loose hair and dander, and may make your allergies less noticeable.
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Understanding the Dangers of Essential Oils
Essential oils are growing in popularity among Americans who wish to take a more natural approach to their health and medical care. In fact, the essential oil market is supposed to reach $11.67 billion by 2022, as more and more people embrace the health benefits of these plant-based products. There are oils for everything from aches and pains to serious illness, and many people find that they feel better when they diffuse or topically apply essential oils. Unfortunately, these oils are often brought into the home with minimal research about their effect on animals, and some that are quite safe for humans can be quite deadly to animals.
If you are going to embrace the essential oils trend, make sure you do so safely for everyone in your family, including the family pet. Use caution introducing new oils, watching for signs of problems, and know which oils are best avoided altogether. Here are some tips to help you.
- If you have a cat, do not use tea tree, thyme, birch, wintergreen, oregano, clove, and cinnamon. These oils contain polyphenolic compounds that prevent the cat's liver from functioning properly, which can be very serious.
- If you have a dog, avoid using pennyroyal, pine, wintergreen, tea tree, cinnamon, citrus, sweet birch or ylang ylang. Many dogs are allergic or sensitive to these, which means they will have skin or respiratory reactions. Some of these will interfere with a dog's normal bodily processes.
- Always dilute or diffuse the essential oil before using. If applying topically, use a carrier oil to dilute. Aim for 3-5 drops of the oil in a 80 to 90% ratio of carrier oil to essential oil.
- Introduce oils one at a time, and watch for signs of an adverse reaction. Remember that your pet can have an allergy to an otherwise safe oil, so wait to introduce blended oils until you've introduced each one individually.
- Wait until your pet is older than 10 weeks. Essential oils should not be used with kittens, puppies or pregnant mother animals unless a vet recommends it.
- Avoid oils if the pet has a seizure disorder. Many can invoke seizures in those who are prone to them.
- Never apply oils near any glands, ears, eyes, or on the nose. These areas will allow the oil to enter the bloodstream quickly, so keep the oils away.
- Call for help if the pet ingests essential oils. Even if the oil is safe, the amount may be too strong for your pet, requiring medical attention.
- Check ingredients to ensure the oil is a pure oil. Many essential oil products have filler or carrier ingredients that could be hard on your pet.
- Stop use if you notice adverse reactions. Common reactions to essential oils include scratching, increased breathing rate, lethargy, excessive drooling and weakness.
- Be cautious with the scents of oils. Remember, pets are far more sensitive to scents than humans are, and a diffused oil with a strong smell may be highly irritating to your pet.
- Keep essential oil supplies stored safely out of your pet's reach. Even safe oils are quite dangerous if ingested at full strength, so keep your oils in a locked or inaccessible cabinet.
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Spotting Signs of an Allergy or Toxicity – What to Do?
Dogs and cats are curious critters, and it may be that no matter how careful you are, your lovable fur ball is exposed to a toxin or allergen. You need to know not only what signs to watch for, but also what to do to help your pet. While it would be impossible to list every potential allergen and toxin your pet may consume or touch, some simple guidelines can help you take action quickly should your pet be exposed to something he shouldn't have.
- Watch for excessive behaviors. Panting, licking, itching and similar behaviors that may be normal for your pet are not normal if they become excessive.
- Check your pet's tongue. Many toxins cause the tongue to burn or swell, so check inside your pet's mouth for this sign. This can also cause drooling.
- Watch for digestive upset. Vomiting, diarrhea or refusal to eat are all common signs of poisoning or toxicity. Blood in the stool is another warning sign.
- Notice any sudden weight gain. Bloating is a serious problem when a pet consumes an allergen or poison. If your pet suddenly looks heavier or has a bloated tummy, it is a sign of a problem.
- Overall lethargy is another sign of a problem. A normally active, happy pet who becomes suddenly lethargic may be suffering from poisoning.
- Know other more worrisome signs. Loss of consciousness, seizures, nosebleeds or unexplained bruising are all signs of poisoning in dogs and cats. Inability to urinate can be a sign of kidney failure due to poisoning.
- Watch for signs of allergies. Itching, watery eyes, discharge from the eyes, skin irritation and respiratory distress all can be signs of allergies, which also need to be addressed.
If you suspect poisoning, here is what you need to do:
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Be Vigilant – Your Pet Is Counting on You
When it comes to avoiding toxins, poisons, and allergens, your pet is relying on one person – you. You cannot expect a dog or cat to understand the risk of everything she may be exposed to from human food to essential oils. Take the steps in this guide seriously to ensure that your pet is not being exposed to toxins or allergens unnecessarily. Know what to do if an accidental exposure occurs. If you do, then your pet will be able to enjoy a long, happy life in your home.