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How to keep a safe home for your dog

Dogs chew on anything
Dogs chew on anything

Sometimes dogs eat things at that are not merely unhealthy but positively dangerous and this can result in serious illness or even death.

Living in Ft. Lauderdale, there are hazards all around for our dogs- in homes, yards parks and countryside.  Some dogs are born scavengers and cannot resist raiding a trash can or nosing in ditches, grabbing and eating anything that smells remotely appealing to them.  Other dogs have dangerous habits, such as chewing stick and stones and swallowing gravel.  Sometimes it is the owner that gives the dog the dangerous item such as a bone or human medicine.  Dogs most at risk are puppies - innocent, curious and eager to put anything in their mouths.

Intestinal Obstruction

One of the most common problems seen in veterinary practice is intestinal obstruction.  It can be caused by a huge variety of objects, such as children's toys, stones, corncobs, sticky tape, rubber balls and bones.  Bones can be hazardous, especially if they are chicken bones or any sharp kind.  Bones can be dangerous.  In addition to fracturing teeth, they can splinter and become wedged in the throat, stomach or gut.  Sharp spikes can perforate the intestines causing fatal peritonitis.  Surgery to remove the foreign body is is major surgery and sometimes involves a bowel resection if part of the gut wall is died.  The bowels of dogs that have eaten bones much of their lives are often stuck together with scar tissue from the injuries caused by the bones.  Small bones and those that splinter easily, such as chicken bones, should never be given to dogs.  Large hard marrow bones may be safe but must be taken away from the dog at the first sign of breaking.  Prevention of intestinal obstruction is far preferable to surgery, so dogs should be given safe playthings to chew, such as hard rubber toys of a suitable size for their breed. 


Poisons abound in every home.  Potentially lethal substances include detergents, disinfectants, paint remover and human medicines.  The yard is not safer, with many households keeping a supply of toxic chemicals for killing weeds, rodents an insects.  There are also poisonous plants and fungi:  laburnum, yew, daffodil bulbs, laurel leaves and numerous berries.  While many human drugs are used in veterinary medicine, there are many others are that are unsafe for dogs.  Even when human drugs can be given to a dog, the dose for a dog can be very different from that for a human.  Therefore, a dog should never be given its owner's medicine and in the case of accidental consumption, contact your veterinarian immediately. 

Why can't I have chocolate?

Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine.  This has to be metabolized and cleared by the liver.  In humans, this takes about two hours.  In dogs, it takes 18 hours and requires a lot of work by the liver.  Toxic levels of theobromine can soon build up, especially if the liver is not functioning well.  Cocoa is the most dangers form of chocolate for dogs, followed by dark and then milk chocolate.  Small dogs are at most risk.  As little as two ounces per two pounds of body weight can be lethal to pets are that sensitive to theobromine.  This means that a small bar of chocolate could kill a Chihuahua.  Chocolate treats especially manufactured to be safe for dogs are widely available but should still be given only in small quantities.

Signs of Trouble

Signs of intestinal obstruction include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and pain lasting several days.  The signs of poisoning are much more acute and vary tremendously, depending on the poison.  Vomiting, weakness, convulsions and collapse are just a few.  A case of suspected poisoning must have veterinary help as soon as possible.  There are few specific antidotes and treatment is usually supportive and symptomatic.  It is a great help to the veterinarian if the actual poison is known. 


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