When my Dogo Argentino was a puppy, we went to the vet every few days. He ate a dead rat in a park, one day. It could be poisoned, we were told. It’s a common practice in the cities to spread rat poison in public places. Luckily for us, this one wasn’t. A few days later, he was playing with a floor cleaning bottle, and the next day with a chocolate wrapper he found in our building compound.
Even as first-time pet parents, we knew these things, commonly found in our household can cause allergies to our dog, can be toxic, cause stomach diseases, and in the worst cases, kill him. To avoid any of these, we would rush to the vet each time our curious pup had eaten something he is not supposed to.
On our third visit to the vet that month, he handed us a bottle of activated charcoal. “Keep it. Use it whenever you think he has eaten something he shouldn’t. The charcoal will help clear his system,” he said. It, however, works only when administered immediately after a dog has consumed something dangerous.
But, activated charcoal is not a full-proof cure, nor is it healthy to have your pup throw up as frequently. And as you can’t and shouldn’t kill your dog’s curiosity—it’s better to learn about all the things that can cause him harm and keep them out of reach, at least inside the house.
Start with your indoor plants. Yes, many varieties are not good for your dog’s health. We were shocked when we learnt about it, as we had never thought plants could be harmful to an animal. My husband had to get rid of his beloved snake plant, the pride of his balcony garden. “Even lilies are not good for your pets, both, dogs and cats,” says veterinarian Umesh Kallahali of Mars Petcare India. There are many more. If you have many indoor plants in your house, you must definitely get the entire list from your vet.
The second common allergen for dogs is floor and utensil cleaners. Replace the strong cleaners, loaded with chemicals, with milder ones, or keep these far away from your dog’s reach at all times. You must also reduce the quantity of it used in every bucket of water, diluting it as much as possible. Many surface cleaners are also not good for your dog, especially the strong-smelling ones. They often cause skin allergies or diseases in your dogs. Even pest-control chemicals are not good for your pets. We usually get pest control done when Khal is not home and keep him out until the smell completely subsides, which is about two hours. The mature dog that he is today, he doesn’t lick the pesticides sprayed. But when he was a pup, we didn’t get any pest control done. We made do with frequent deep cleaning sessions.
The plants and cleaners, however, are not as commonly reported to vets as common food items. Health issues caused by the consumption of onion, garlic, chocolates, coffee, tea, alcohol, macadamia nuts, grapes, weed and human medicines for diabetes, blood pressure and heart attacks are far more common and toxic for your canine baby. “The only way out is to keep these away from your dogs,” says Kallahali. And that’s why Khal is not allowed inside the kitchen. From your high-sugar fruits to caffeinated beverages, spices, and herbs, there is so much in there. You never know what could be harmful to your dog. So, it’s best not to have them enter the kitchen at all. It’s also a good hygienic practice as it ensures that there is no dog fur or saliva in your food.
Also, be extremely vigilant when outdoors. Distract your pup with a treat or a toy or a loud noise as soon as it tries to eat a chocolate or lick it off a wrapper, which is found abundantly on Indian roads, says Kallahali. Hence, please don’t check your messages watch Insta reels or talk to friends while walking your dog. You never know what one WhatsApp message might cost him and you.
Then there are also batteries and some toys that are not good for your dogs. Your pet could swallow Lego pieces or some other small parts of the toys and choke on them. These could also be lodged in their kidneys, which could cause serious health problems.
But the good news is that as your dog matures, they will stop eating most of these things on their own. One solution is to train your dog not to eat anything not offered by you. I know of many dogs who will not eat anything lying around in the streets, even if it’s a chicken leg.
Riddhi Doshi is a Mumbai-based journalist, a first-time pet parent and a Kathak student.