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Ontario Veterinary Medical Association

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Pet Safety Tips

Holiday hazards

Chocolate – That box of chocolates wrapped and trimmed under your tree may satisfy your sweet tooth, but it's poisonous for your dog. Make sure all food-related gifts are tucked away safely.

Turkey – Turkey is delicious, but its bones and fat are too much for your pet's stomach and can cause severe upset. Make sure carcass leftovers are secured away from your pet.

Bones – Bones are never a good choice for a snack, as they may become lodged or splinter in the digestive system. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation on appropriate treats.

Tinsel – This shiny decoration is tempting for your kitty. Pets, particularly cats, love to chew and play with glittery tinsel. Unfortunately, they can't resist eating it, and tinsel can become entangled in the intestinal tract. Often, it must be surgically removed. Does it really look that pretty on your tree?

Stress – You may love company during the holidays, but consider whether your pet does too. The presence of many visitors unknown to your pet can cause unnecessary stress for him/her. If you're planning a party, provide your pet with a quiet, secure place to settle in while you party.

Gifting pets – If you're thinking of giving a new pet as a holiday gift, think again. The holidays can be a hectic and stressful time, particularly for a new pet, and the recipient may be unprepared for the responsibility.  

Electrical cords and decorations – These can pose potential hazards for your pets. Avoid leaving your furry friend unsupervised around these tempting items. Try to segregate your pet from holiday trimmings when you're not home.

Holiday plants – A variety of plants can be toxic to your house pet. Check to see if a plant is safe before bringing it into your home.

Over feeding – You might overeat during the holidays, but don't increase the treats for your pet. Obesity is one of the major causes of long-term ill health in pets. Maintain your animal's regular diet and keep plenty of fresh water available at all times.

If your pet becomes ill as a result of coming into contact with any of these holiday hazards, contact your veterinarian immediately for advice on first aid and further treatment.


Pets and heat stroke

During the hot summer months, it’s important to remember that your furry friend has a limited capacity to deal with the heat, and can easily become overwhelmed, leading to heat stroke.

What is heat stroke?

Heat stroke happens when your pet’s body isn't able to cope with the external heat, leading to illness, organ failure and even death. Humans sweat to help regulate their body temperature, but dogs don't have prominent sweat glands, so they rely on panting to cool off. Cats will sometimes groom themselves as a cooling mechanism, but may also pant. Due to this limited ability to cope, dogs and cats can be overwhelmed by the heat, especially when left in a hot car, but even just through physical activity.

How to avoid heat stroke

  • Be aware that certain dogs are more susceptible to the heat than others, including overweight pets and those with long hair, thick coats or short faces. English and French bulldogs are five times more likely to suffer from heat stroke than the average dog, according to Trupanion.
  • Keep plenty of fresh water available. If the water bowl is outside, make sure it's in the shade to keep it cool.
  • Keep your dog inside. On the hottest days of summer, your dog will be more comfortable inside. When outside, keep your dog on the grass, since pavement can reach temperatures high enough to burn your pet’s foot pads.
  • Never leave your pet alone in the car. Temperatures in a car can skyrocket in a short period of time, even with the windows rolled down.
  • Use air conditioning, fans, cooling pads or a kiddie pool.
  • Don't exercise your dog during the hottest hours of the day. Try to plan walks for morning or evening hours, when it’s cooler and the sun isn’t as strong.
  • Take breaks while exercising and be aware of your pet’s breathing. If he's panting hard or making strange sounds, take a break. You might have to shorten exercise trips, especially with snub-nose dogs.
  • While dogs are at greatest risk, cats and other small pets can also suffer from heat stroke if left in the sun or left in a confined, hot space.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Excessive panting
  • Muscle twitching
  • Anxious or dazed look
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Increased drooling
  • Diarrhea

What to do if you suspect your pet has heat stroke

If you believe your pet has heat stroke, take them out of the sun and heat and attempt to cool him with cool (but not cold) water and damp towels. Allow your pet to drink if he's able. A pet suffering from heat stroke needs to be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible, as the condition can cause organ damage or death.


Pets and poisons

Follow these guidelines to protect your pets from being exposed.

  • Be aware of the plants you have in your home and yard. Eating some plants can be fatal to a pet.
  • Never allow your pets to have access to the areas where cleaning products are being used or stored. Some cleaning products might only cause mild stomach upset, but others can cause bad burns to the tongue, mouth and stomach.
  • When using pest bait or traps, put them in areas that aren't accessible to your pets. Most bait contains sweet smelling inert ingredients, like jelly, peanut butter or sugar, which can also attract your pets.
  • Never give your companion animal medication unless directed by a veterinarian. Many medications that are safe for humans can be deadly for animals. For example, one 500mg acetaminophen tablet can kill a cat weighing seven pounds.
  • Keep all prescription and over-the-counter drugs out of your pet’s reach, preferably in closed cabinets. Pain killers, cold medicines, anti-cancer drugs, antidepressants, vitamins and diet pills can be lethal to animals, even in small doses. For example, one 200mg ibuprofen tablet can cause stomach ulcers in a dog weighing 10 pounds.
  • Never leave chocolate out. Even small amounts can cause problems.
  • Many common household items can be lethal to animals. Mothballs, potpourri oils, coffee grounds, homemade play dough, fabric softener sheets, dishwashing detergent, batteries, cigarettes, alcoholic drinks and hand and foot warmers are all highly toxic, even in small amounts.
  • Automotive products such as gasoline, oil and antifreeze should be stored in areas that aren't accessible to your pet. As little as one teaspoon of antifreeze can be deadly to a cat weighing seven pounds; less than one tablespoon can be lethal to a dog weighing 20 pounds.
  • Before buying a flea product for use on your pet, ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.
  • Read all of the information on labels before using a product on your pet or in your home. Always follow the directions.
  • If a product is for use only on dogs, it should never be used on cats; if a product is for use only on cats, it should never be used on dogs.
  • Make sure your companion animals don’t enter areas where foggers or house sprays have been used for the period of time written on the label.
  • Make sure your pets don't go on lawns or in gardens treated with fertilizers, herbicides or insecticides until they have dried completely. Always store these products in areas that aren't accessible to your pets.
  • If you're uncertain about the use of any product, ask the manufacturer and/or your veterinarian for instructions.

Provided by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. For more information, visit


Potentially poisonous plants

  • Aloe Vera, Amaryllis, Apple (seeds), Apple Leaf Croton, Apricot (pit), Asparagus Fern, Autumn Crocus, Azalea
  • Baby's Breath, Bird of Paradise, Branching Ivy, Buckeye, Buddhist Pine
  • Caladium, Calla Lily, Castor Bean, Ceriman, Charming Dieffenbachia, Cherry (seeds and wilting leaves), Chinese Evergreen, Christmas Rose, Cineraria, Clematis, Cordatum, Corn Plant, Cornstalk Plant, Croton, Cuban Laurel, Cutleaf Philodendron, Cycads, Cyclamen
  • Daffodil, Devil's Ivy, Dieffenbachia, Dracaena Palm, Dragon Tree, Dumb Cane
  • Easter Lily (especially in cats!!!!), Elaine, Elephant Ears, Emerald Feather, English Ivy, Eucalyptus
  • Fiddle-leaf fig, Florida Beauty, Floxglove, Fruit Salad Plant
  • Geranium, German Ivy, Giamt Dumb Cane, Glacier Ivy, Gold Dust Dracaena, Golden Pothos
  • Hahn's Self-Branching Ivy, Heartland Philodendron, Hurrican Plant
  • Indian Rubber Plant
  • janet Craig Dracaena, Japanese Show Lily (especially in cats!!!), Jerusalem Cherry
  • Kalanchoe (Panda bear Plant)
  • Lacey Tree Philodendron, Lily of the Valley
  • Madagascar Dragon Tree, Marble Queen, Marijuana, Mexican Breadfruit, Miniature Croton, Mistletoe, Morning Glory, Mother-in Law's Tongue
  • Narcissus, Needlepoint Ivy, Nephthytis, Nightshade
  • Oleander, Onions, Oriental Lily (especially in cats!!!)
  • Peace Lily, Peach (wilting leaves and pits), Pencil Cactus, Plumosa Fern, Poinsettia (low toxicity), Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Pothos, Precatory Bean, Primrose
  • Red Emerald, Red Princess, Red-Margined Dracaena, Rhododendron, Ribbon Plant
  • Saddle Leaf Philodendron, Sago Palm, Satin Pothos, Schefflera, Silver Pothos, Spotted Dumb Cane, String of Pearls, Striped Dracaena, Sweetheart Ivy, Swiss Cheese Plant
  • Taro Vine, Tiger Lily (especially cats!!!), Tomato Plant (green fruit, stem and leaves), Tree Philodendron, Tropic Snow Dieffenbachia
  • Weeping Fig
  • Yew

Provided by Dr. Jill Richardson, Veterinary Poison Information Specialist, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 


Travelling with your pet

Travelling with a pet can be stressful for both you and your pet, but planning ahead can help make the experience better.

If possible, it's best to leave your pet at home with a person you trust or at a reputable kennel. When that's not an option, the first step is to take your pet to the veterinarian to make sure that it’s healthy enough to travel and up to date on necessary vaccines. If your pet requires medication, make sure you have enough to last the length of the trip, as well as any flea, tick and heartworm prevention products. Some regions have a higher risk of certain parasites, so talk to your veterinarian about the risks associated with where you're going.

Car travel

  • Keep your pet in a secure, well-ventilated crate or carrier to keep the animal and passengers safe.
  • On a hot day, a car can quickly become an oven—even if the windows are open—and lead to heat stroke or death. Never leave an animal alone in a parked vehicle.
  • Bring plenty of water for your pet to drink.
  • Some places require documentation, like proof of rabies vaccination. Check ahead and make sure you bring the right paperwork.
  • Make sure your pet has a proper identification tag in case your pet gets loose.

Air travel

The danger of air travel is not in the flying, but the loading, unloading or waiting in an unsheltered area exposed to the elements.

Delays can result in time spent on the runway before take-off or after landing, when the plane's cargo areas aren't pressurized. During that time, your pet is confined in the cargo hold without fresh air, and temperatures can fluctuate from hot to cold in short periods of time.

Due to the uncertainty of departure times and weather conditions, unless it is absolutely necessary for your pet to travel by air, we recommend that you leave him/her at home with a trusted friend or family member or at a reputable boarding kennel. To avoid exposure to extreme temperatures, some airlines won't permit pets to fly at certain times of the year. Dog-_happy,_beach

If you do decide to transport your pet by air, the following guidelines may help to make them safer.

  • Buy an approved carrier from an airline, pet store, or veterinary hospital weeks before your trip and allow your animal to get familiar with it.
  • Make sure all screws on the carrier are present and tight. You don't want your pet getting loose in the cargo hold. Most pet travel accidents are a result of poorly constructed carriers.
  • Don't lock the door in case of emergency, but consider adding a snap closure for security.
  • A familiar blanket or toy in the carrier might make your pet more comfortable and less afraid.
  • A container for water should be secured to the inside of the carrier and put where it can be filled without opening the cage. A drip bottle is better than an open bowl, but your pet needs to be trained to use this type of bottle before the flight.
  • Carriers must be clearly marked "LIVE ANIMALS" and "THIS END UP" in letters at least one inch high. The animal's name and destination, as well as the owner's identification and address, should also be secured to the carrier.
  • Travel at off-peak hours. Try to book non-stop flights. If you're taking multiple flights, make sure that your pet has been transferred by confirming this with your flight attendant.
  • Sedate your pet only on the advice of your veterinarian. Sedation may lead to serious complications, like inhibiting your pet's ability to regulate body temperature or breathing problems.
  • Inform flight attendants that you have a pet on board, especially if your flight is delayed. If your pet is small enough, carry it on board. Many airlines will allow this if the pet carrier fits under the seat in front of you. Check with your airline.
  • Make sure your pet has received the appropriate vaccinations for the country you're visiting and that the necessary veterinarian-certified papers are with the pet. Consult the customs/immigration department for local vaccination requirements.


Bringing a pet to Canada

Importation of pets into Canada is regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Under the National Animal Health Program, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency establishes import requirements for all animals and animal products entering Canada-including domestic pets. The Agency can refuse entry to any animal presented for importation. See import guidelines for the more common pets.


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