Golden labrador lying in dog bed with two black kittens

How to prevent a trip to the vet

There are some things that you can do to avoid an unexpected trip to the vet.

There are many reasons that your pet may need to take unexpected visit to the vet. However, this can sometimes be avoided by keeping your pet safe and preventing nasty accidents.


If your pet is injured, or if you are worried that your pet may be unwell, contact your vet for advice.

  1. 1. Take care to prevent road accidents

Roads are dangerous places for pets, so it's important to take steps to keep them safe. Always keep your dog on a lead near roads – especially if you're in a busy area where there are likely to be distractions. If you're planning to let your dog off the lead in a safe area, remember to work on their recall so you can call them back when you need to.

Cats are also harder to see on the road when it's dark, so it may be a good idea to keep your cat indoors during the night if you live by a road.

  1. 2. Be aware of poisoning

Cleaning products

Many cleaning products are highly toxic to pets. If your pet licks any kind of toxic substance off their fur, they can potentially burn their mouth, tongue or throat.

Cats in particular will lick their paws and fur almost immediately if they feel unclean, so it's essential not to let your pet walk across floors or worktops that have been disinfected, until the surface is completely dry.

Read more on cleaning products that are toxic to pets.

Plants and flowers

It's important to get to know which plants and flowers are poisonous to your pet, so you can keep them away from your home and garden.

Lilies are highly toxic to cats, and your cat can easily absorb the pollen if they lick their fur after brushing past them. Likewise, daffodils are dangerous to dogs, so it's best to keep these out of reach.

To find out more about poisonous plants, take a look at our list of plants poisonous to dogs and plants poisonous to cats.

Food and drink

Chocolate, garlic, onion, raisins, grapes and alcohol are all poisonous to pets and should be kept well out of reach.

Xylitol is also highly poisonous to dogs. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that can be found in some peanut butters, sugar-free chewing gum and toothpaste. If eaten, your dog can become very poorly, so remember keep any products containing xylitol out of your dog's way.


Never give your pet medicine meant for humans – some can be very dangerous. Paracetamol, for example, is highly toxic to cats.

  1. 3. Be cautious of open windows and balconies

It's a common misconception that cats will not fall from an open window, and that they will land uninjured if they were to fall. This is not the case – falling from an open window can severely injure your cat.

If you live above ground level, it's important to keep windows closed, or to fix secure barriers to prevent your cat from resting on windowsills or balconies. This is especially important during the summer, when windows are more likely to be open.

  1. 4. Avoid an upset tummy or blockage

Avoid a nasty accident by making sure that there are no unsafe objects lying around your home for your pet to chew. Objects such as toys can cause a dangerous stomach blockage if swallowed, which often require surgery.

Remember to also be vigilant on walks to make sure your dog does not pick up thrown away rubbish, such as bones. Avoid playing with sticks or stones with your dog, as this can be very dangerous. If your dog likes to play fetch, take their toys out with you instead.

Making sure your pet understands commands such as 'off' or 'leave' can be helpful if they attempt to eat something they shouldn't.

  1. 5. Prevent your pet from getting into fights

Most cats are very good at avoiding getting into fights with other cats, but if you find your cat is regularly fighting, it's best to seek professional help. If the cat fights only happen at night, you may find keeping them in during this time resolves the issue.

Many of the dogs your dog will meet out and about will not pose a risk to your dog, but there will be some who may become defensive if they are approached especially if they are on a lead.

It's important to make sure that you can recall your dog away from others when you need to. If you know your own dog has problematic behaviour around other dogs, it's best to seek professional help as soon as you can.

  1. 6. Watch out for broken glass

Walking on broken glass can cause nasty cuts to your pet's paws. When out on walks, be cautious of glass on the floor and make sure to cross the road to avoid broken glass if you spot any.

It's also worth keeping a close eye on your dog at the beach, as the sharp rocks and debris that can wash up on shore could hurt your pet.

  1. 7. Prevent parasites

Keep your pet up to date with flea and worm prevention treatment to avoid them picking up any unwanted visitors. More about fleas in dogs and cats.

Springtime can also be a particularly bad time of year for dogs to pick up lungworm – an often-fatal illness caused when they eat or lick slugs or snails that carry the disease. Slugs can get onto your dog's toys, so remember to regularly wash them, especially if they've been left in the garden or taken on walks.

  1. 8. Stay on top of exercise

Encouraging your pet to exercise regularly, alongside a well balanced diet, is the best way to keep them healthy.

Playing with your dog or cat is a great way to keep them active, but remember to avoid playing games on slippery floors, as this can cause injury.

Read more about how to play with your dog and how to play with your cat.

  1. 9. Perform regular health checks on your pet

Giving your pet regular health checks at home can help you to spot quickly when something is wrong. When checking your pet's health, pay attention to their:

  • eyes – make sure they are clear and free from discharge
  • ears – check for swelling or redness
  • coat and skin – check for lumps and bumps, parasites or abnormalities in their skin
  • movement – make sure they are moving as normal
  • tail – the tail area should be clean and free of sores

If you spot any abnormalities, speak to your vet.

  1. 10. Keep your pet's teeth clean

If your pet's teeth are not kept clean, it can start to cause problems such as dental or gum disease.

The best way to prevent this to by regularly checking and cleaning your pet's teeth using a pet safe toothpaste.

Read more about dog dental care and cat dental care.

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• 19 April 2024

Next review

• 19 April 2027

Claire crouching next to her white staffie dog
Approved by
Claire Stallard

Animal Behaviourist ABTC-CAB

Approved by
Anna Ewers Clark

Veterinary Surgeon MRCVS