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Pet Safety & Dog Bites

Pet SafetyPets are an important part of many households, but while they are often well-loved and considered members of the family, they also come with concerns that must be addressed for their safety and the safety of anyone who interacts with them. Pet owners must create a safe environment where their dog, cat, or any type of pet can thrive, and it is also crucial that people learn how to interact with animals to help avoid aggressive behavior such as dog bites.

Fire Safety

Home fires present a very serious threat to animals, and animals can also be to blame for them. Unlike humans who are able to call for help and escape from closed buildings, animals depend on their owners to protect them. The best way to do that is to prevent or reduce the risk of a fire happening in the first place. To prevent pets from starting a fire, keep them away from open flames, including candles. Purchasing flameless candles can be helpful, as they cannot accidentally be knocked down by a dog's tail or a jumping cat. It may be necessary to secure younger, more curious animals when a fireplace or fire pit is in use. When not in use, open flames should be thoroughly extinguished. Stoves also can lead to fires when pets are around. To prevent this, remove the knobs from the stove or cover them. You should also always take routine precautions to prevent fires from occurring. This includes keeping power outlets uncrowded and clothes dryer vents clean.

To prepare for a potential fire, families should include their pets in their fire escape plan and drills. To help ensure that pets are rescued by first-responders, hang a "pet inside" sign or cling on the window. Limiting the places where a pet can hide will also help firefighters locate and save pets that are trapped inside a burning home. To do this, close bedroom and bathroom doors so that your pet is kept in a room closest to the front of the house.

Travel Safety

Traveling with pets is meant to be an enjoyable experience, but stress and safety issues are both concerns. One of the important things that can and should be done before the trip is to get pets microchipped. This helps make it easier for your pet to be reunited with you should the animal get lost. If you plan to travel out of the country, it's important to take the animal to the vet to ensure that it is up to date on all of its shots. It's also often necessary for pets to have a health certificate dated within 10 days of the planned trip. When traveling abroad, pet owners also should understand and comply with any requirements set by the country they are visiting.

It's also important to plan for how your pet will make the journey. If you're traveling by plane, purchase a crate that allows the animal to stand and move comfortably and is USDA-approved. Attach proper identification, which includes the pet's name, the owner's name, a cell phone number, a photograph of the animal, and a phone number where the owner can be reached once they arrive at their destination. Also, write the words "Live Animal" on the crate. For car travel, purchase a well-ventilated carrier that is roomy enough for the animal to stand, lie down, and otherwise move around. If a pet is not kept in a carrier while the car is in motion, it should be secured with a safety harness and not allowed to roam freely around the vehicle or stick its head out of the window.

Toxicity of Plants/Foods

Naturally, what a pet eats can make it sick, so it's important to use caution about both the pet food you buy and the possible other things that the animal might find to eat. Whenever you move into a home, check the yard for any plants that may be poisonous if consumed. This is also important when buying new household or garden plants. Although there is a long list of plants that are toxic to animals, a few plants that are especially toxic to dogs include aloe, amaryllis, daffodils, mint, milkweed, parsley, poinsettias, and wisteria. Some plants that are commonly recognized as toxic to cats include chrysanthemums, certain varieties of lilies such as tiger and daylily, oleander, castor bean, tulips, rhododendron plants, azaleas, and English ivy.

Both cats and dogs often want, and may even beg for, human or table food. This, too, can prove deadly for the family pet if they are accidentally fed food that is poisonous to them. Never give a pet alcohol, coffee, grapes, chocolate, dairy products, onions, garlic, salty foods, or undercooked or raw eggs or meat. If pets consume any of these things, contact a veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.

Emergency Preparedness

When preparing for disasters such as floods, tornadoes, and earthquakes, it's important to keep any furred, feathered, or scaled members of the family in mind as well. Include provisions for them when creating an emergency supply kit, including three days' worth of pet food and water. Also include spare items such as dog collars, leashes or harnesses, and ID tags. Create a small first aid kit in a plastic bag or some other waterproof container that includes any medications that your pet is currently taking as well as first aid supplies such as saline solution, bandages, flea and tick medicine, and gloves. It's helpful to also include a small pet first aid reference book. Keeping familiar items such as toys in the emergency kit can be comforting to an animal in a stressful situation.

In addition to supplies, it's also important to have plans for who will check on and evacuate a pet that's home alone if there's a disaster. Talk with a neighbor or family member and ask them to help care for your pet should an emergency occur when no one is home. Also, plan for where to go following an emergency with a pet in tow, as many emergency shelters do not allow pets. You may need to make plans to stay with friends or family, and it can also be helpful to know where pet-friendly hotels are in your area or if there is a kennel or veterinary hospital where your pet can stay in an emergency.

Preventing Dog Bite Attacks

Animals, particularly dogs, will potentially bite people if they are injured or afraid, feel threatened, or feel overly protective. This can happen even with the most docile-seeming pets. It's important to create an environment in which they feel safe and where their exposure to new people and animals is controlled. Pet owners can reduce the risk of their dog biting people or other animals by socializing them when they are puppies. In addition, dogs should never be left alone with young children that they are unfamiliar with, nor should they be left with strangers of any age. Dogs can be unpredictable, and people who they are unfamiliar with may be more prone to do something that causes them to lash out. Dogs should also never be left unsupervised in a yard or left chained up for long periods, as this can make them territorial and aggressive. It can also help to take a dog for behavioral training classes. Dogs should also be neutered or spayed, as this helps to reduce aggression and the risk of biting.

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