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Preventing Pet Emergencies

As pet owners, we all hope and wish that our pet never has to deal with an emergency medical situation. Pet emergencies are distressing for both pets and their owners. While there is no way to prevent all emergency situations, it is extremely prudent to control what is controllable and avoid what is preventable.


Many of the trauma cases presented to the emergency service are caused by pets that were left unattended outside. Pet owners, including myself, enjoy letting their cats explore the outdoors or taking their dogs for a walk in the woods. Having said that, pets left unattended outside are at risk of vehicular trauma, lacerations, bites from other animals, and a variety of other sources of trauma. Thus, our recommendation for avoiding trauma is as follows:

  1. Keep dogs contained within a fenced yard.

  2. While walking, keep dogs leashed.

  3. Keep cats indoors

Additionally - and this may be unpopular - be wary of dog parks. Multiple dogs off leash creates an environment conducive to fights. Dog parks are an excellent concept, and I adore and utilize them. Nonetheless, for safety's sake, my dogs will not be in the park during peak hours.

Preventing Poisonings

The majority of poisonings occur as a result of a pet gaining access to something they should not have. Human medications, chocolate, grapes, and raisins, pet medications, poisonous plants, illicit drugs, xylitol (an artificial sweetener), alcohol, and rodenticides are the most frequently poisoned substances. When a pet consumes any of these substances, it is because a human has not ensured they locked away. As pet owners, it is our responsibility to prevent access.

  1. Keep all medications in a secure location. Prescription medications should be stored in a wall cabinet.

  2. Take medications behind a closed door; this way, if you spill medication, your pet will be unable to access the pills on the floor.

  3. Keep all gum and sweets out of reach. Gum and sweets should be in a wall cabinet. Purses, backpacks, etc… containing sweets or gum must be placed in a secure location.

  4. Ensure that no human food, alcohol, or illicit drugs are within reach.

Preventing Gastrointestinal (GI) Problems

While not all GI problems are preventable, those caused by ingesting items not intended for consumption are.

  1. Keep a consistent feeding schedule.

  2. Allow unrestricted access to water at all times.

  3. Be monotonous - constantly feed the same, or a similar, food. Feeding Pet Food Industry Association of Southern Africa (PFI) member brands to your pet ensures that you are providing the best possible nutrition for your pet.

  4. Protect the waste bin.

  5. Feed no human food.

Preventing Environmental Stress

Heat, humidity, and extreme cold can all wreak havoc on an animal's health. If the weather is hot and humid enough that strenuous exercise is uncomfortable for you, it will also be uncomfortable and potentially dangerous for your pet. Similarly, if you are forced to wear winter boots and multiple layers due to the cold, your pet will suffer the same discomfort.

  1. Always provide water and shade for your pet during the summer.

  2. Exercise your pet in the morning or evening during the summer because temperatures are typically cooler at these times.

  3. During the summer, you may need to restrict your pet's outdoor exercise.

  4. Always provide a warm shelter during the winter.

  5. Never leave your pet unattended in a car.

While it is impossible to prevent all emergencies, we can hopefully avert many by exercising caution.

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