In the kitchen
Keep your dog out of the kitchen when you are cooking. Dogs are naturally interested in human activity, and accidental spills of hot fat or oil and boiling water can cause horrific injuries that can leave permanent damage.
Dogs that eat bread dough as it is rising experience initial discomfort as the dough rises in the stomach, and may then be poisoned by chemicals produced as the dough ferments. Homemade playdough can be even more dangerous because of its high salt content.
Giving mineral supplements to big dogs to encourage healthy bones may actually cause bone and joint problems. If you have a large or giant breed puppy, such as a Great Dane, discuss a feeding plan with your vet, as there is some evidence that excessive feeding may cause bone and joint diseases.
Chocolate can be toxic, sometimes in quite small quantities. Dark chocolate, cooking chocolate and cocoa powder, can all make your pet unwell. Milk chocolate is less dangerous, but can produce symptoms depending on the amount.
A medium sized bar eaten by a small dog can be enough – so be wary at Christmas when dogs may chew through wrapping. Symptoms include: vomiting, restlessness, twitchiness and walking difficulties. Some cases are fatal. Raisins and grapes can sometimes – but unpredictably – cause serious poisoning, so are best avoided. Macadamia nuts and onions – raw, cooked or growing – are also poisonous. Sugar-free products such as chewing gum, which contain the sweetener Xylitol, can cause a disastrous fall in blood sugar levels and collapse, which may result in death. Always contact your vet if you think your pet may have eaten any of these foods.
In the garden
There is an endless list of poisonous plants. It is best to keep an eye on your dog when he is out, and avoid letting him chew on anything. If you see your dog chewing a plant, distract him with a favourite toy – chasing him and shouting can convert plant chewing into a dangerous game. Azalea, daffodil, dieffenbachia, rhododendron, sago palm and yew are among the more toxic plants encountered. Horse chestnut twigs, leaves, and conkers can also be poisonous.
Bone meal can cause gastric intestinal upsets even when eaten in small amounts, and may also contain toxic insecticides or fertilisers. Large quantities can produce a blockage of the bowel. If you are gardening with bone meal, the smell can attract the interest of “dogs that dig”, which may be unfortunate if what you are planting is toxic, such as daffodil or autumn crocus bulbs. Snacking from the compost heap can cause illness – the moulds in decaying compost can produce vomiting, twitching, tremors and worse.