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Is your home safe for pets?


Mitizi, an eight-year-old poodle, could not adjust to company, so her owners shut her in the bedroom of their 11th-story condominium whenever visitors arrived. On one such occasion, a sunbather at the swimming pool below saw something leap from an 11th-story window and fall into a flower bed. That something was Mitizi! Remarkably, she survived. She suffered soft-tissue trauma with swelling and bruises, but she did not even have any broken bones.

Mitizi and her owners were extremely fortunate, but had her owners been a bit more conscientious about their pet's safety, the incident could have been avoided altogether. Her owners' bed was situated next to a screen-less window, which had been left open. It was believed that Mitizi, who was blind, thought when she jumped from the window she was hopping out onto the patio, which she frequented.

It is, of course, impossible to list all accident possibilities, for animals and people are always coming up with new ingenious ways to hurt themselves: my advice is simply to be aware of situations that could lead to accidents. I trust the anecdotes and suggestions that follow will help pet owners raise their safety awareness.

Fire and Water

I once treated a basset hound named Rambo that jumped into a bathtub full of scalding water. The dog loved to bathe with its owner; however, this time the owner was called away to the telephone after turning on the hot water.

Another burn case I have seen involved a terrier that stepped on hot coals at a family picnic. Glowing coals left to cool and die without being put out can remain dangerously hot for many hours.

Animal owners who warm food or milk for young animals in a microwave oven should always test the temperature before giving it to them.

Fireworks are a serious hazard to pets.

Electrocution, as well as burns, can result from pets' chewing electrical cords or exposed wiring.

Fire departments recommend that pet owners post a description of the pets near entrances in case of a fire.

Incredible Edibles

Gretchen, a young schnauzer, was brought to the veterinary clinic because she was vomiting. "By the way," her mistress said, "I am missing one earring and some marbles that were sitting on the coffee table." You guessed it--the missing earring and marbles showed up beautifully on the radiograph.

That same week, my colleague performed exploratory surgery on a young Doberman pinscher with persistent vomiting and removed a pair of panty hose from the dog's stomach. I have seen similar cases involving cats that have chewed yarn or thread, often with needles attached.

I once had a call from a lady whose poodle was acting strangely. By the time I reached the hospital, however, the poodle was dead. In the necropsy, I found a large Brazil nut lodged in the intestinal tract. I concluded that the poodle suffered severe intestinal spasms and pain because of the lodged nut, went into shock, and died. However, the poodle had also consumed half a box of chocolate candy, which is toxic for dogs.

Young animals tend to explore and chew. Don't reinforce such behavior by trying to pull things from their mouth, because they are quick to interpret that as a game of tug of war. Present an acceptable chewable item, such as a rawhide bone, as a substitute. Puppies that have been taught basic obedience commands can be brought under voice control when they begin to chew unacceptable objects.

Poison Pitfalls

A complete list of poisons would be almost endless. Antifreeze is perhaps the best-known dangerous substance for pets. Because animals like its sweet taste, antifreeze poisons many animals in the fall as people are preparing their cars for winter. Cats can receive a fatal dose just by licking it off their fur.

One report stated that 7 percent of animals that accidentally ingest human drugs die. Make sure your medication is out of reach of children and pets.

Poisonous plants cause problems for cats more often than for dogs. Daffodil, oleander, poinsettia, dumb cane, mistletoe, and philodendron are house plants that can be toxic to pets if ingested.

Many insecticides and rodenticides are dangerous for pets. Cats are often indirectly poisoned when ingesting poisoned insects or rodents. The good news is that many extremely toxic agents have been removed from the market and are being replaced by new less dangerous compounds or are being sold only to trained professionals.

Your emergency telephone list should include the numbers of your veterinarian and the nearest poisoncontrol center. In an emergency, be able to tell your veterinarian the name and ingredients of the suspected poison, when the accident happened, how much of the substance was ingested, clinical signs or unusual behavior of your pet, and any antidotes, if listed, from the container of the substance.

Hidden Catches

A common trauma seen by veterinarians in winter involves a cat that curls up under the hood of a car to enjoy the warmth of the engine; when the unsuspecting driver starts the car, the cat is caught in the fan belt. Open clothes dryers and dishwashers are also temptations to animals in winter that can have disastrous consequences.

Countless pets have walked into, run through, and flown agaisnt glass doors and windows. Safety glass, decals, and restriction of pets when they're in new environments might help.

Pet owners must also keep in mind the potential hazards of fans, fish hooks, sharp objects sticking up out of the ground, and automatic garage doors.

Suffocation and Starvation

Small pets are able to crawl into tight spaces, and sometimes they get trapped. Such was the case of Bonzo, a small calico kitten who was found after being trapped for three days in a hideaway bed on a back porch. Luckily, Bonzo survived. Other animals have been trapped in attics or basements and not found until it's too late. Plastic bags can also be a hazard to small pets, as they can be to small children.

It seems that many pet owners just don't think about such potential accidents for their pets as burning their paws on uncovered coals or swallowing medication or other small objects. An extra measure of caution for your pet's safety, however, will not only save you expense and guilt but also enhance the relationship of trust between you and your pet.

Questions for the Vet

Dear Dr. Whiteley,

I have two cats under three years of age--one male and one female (unrelated), both neutered. The female has a watery discharge, often tinged with blood, with a disagreeable odor. This has been going on for some time. I have taken her to two vets. The first has given her steroids, hormones, shots, etc., none of which has helped. The second vet said the problem could have been caused when she was spayed. She was checked for diabetes, which was negative. He also said she should not have been given so many steroids. At this point I am desperate as I don't know which doctor to rely upon. One suggested "putting her down," but she is so lovable and trusting, I hate to have it done.

My other problem is with both cats. They have a skin problem that nothing seems to help. The doctor said it was an allergy to fleas. I comb them every day but seldom find a flea, so they certainly aren't infested.

The female has had two lab tests for leukemia, both negative.

I have changed their diet recently, almost eliminating fish, after reading an article by a vet about pansteatitis. I am feeding the cats a science diet, moist food, and 9 Lives canned food.

Mrs. W. H. Wood Sebring, Florida

Dear Mrs. Wood,

Persistent infections may indicate illnesses such as diabetes and feline leukemia, so I am pleased that testing was negative for these two diseases. A persistent discharge from the vulva usually indicates an infection of the vagina; the uterus and ovaries were removed by spaying. I recommend a bacterial culture and sensitivity. Your veterinarian will collect a small amount of the discharge on a sterile swab and submit it to a laboratory. The laboratory will grow any bacteria contained on the swab in a dish filled with nutrients and determine which antibiotics will kill the bacteria. If a disease-causing bacteria is cultured, the cat should be treated with the recommended antibiotics.

For flea-allergic animals, total elimination of fleas is needed to give relief to the animal. This may mean hiring a professional exterminator to treat the house and yard with a preparation that kills adult and immature fleas, followed by another treatment in two weeks. You might be able to get by with quarterly treatments after the second treatment. If the flea problem is severe, you may have to have the cats dipped every two weeks; if you do it yourself, make sure it is a product labeled for use with cats. A pyrethrin pump spray or powder can be used on cats between dips. I would pick one good diet such as the Science diet and stick with it.

Good luck!


Photo: Brush up on toxic substances--they've been removed from some home products, but it's best to play it safe.
COPYRIGHT 1987 Saturday Evening Post Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Whiteley, H. Ellen
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Nov 1, 1987
Previous Article:A celebration of plenty.
Next Article:Warming up to heat pumps.

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