Media releases 2014


Pet proofing your garden

Thursday, 23 October 2014 by Aimee Bourke

With warmer temperatures and longer hours of daylight, spring and summer are when New Zealanders are most active in the garden – unfortunately this can also coincide with an increase in dog accidents.

Southern Cross Pet Insurance head Anthony McPhail says that because of their curious nature, dogs can sniff, lick and chew their way into a case of poisoning or injury in the blink of an eye.

McPhail says the claims Southern Cross Pet Insurance pays out as a result of garden and garage accidents serve to highlight that when it comes to pets, owners need to be just as vigilant as parents of young children.

“Commonly used fertilisers and pesticides can contain harmful chemicals that are poisonous to your pet. If you’re going to be spraying the lawn, for example, put your dog inside – along with any of their toys and feeding bowls that may be nearby – and don’t let them out until the treated area is dry.”

Fertilisers such as blood and bone – made up of ground animal products – are particularly appealing to dogs; however they can cause vomiting, so try to prevent dogs digging the soil in an area where these have been used.

Even the humble compost heap can cause problems if it contains dairy or meat products, grains, nuts and legumes. Once a food becomes mouldy it may contain harmful toxins, so if pet owners are planning to compost then a bin with a secure lid will be safer than a pile on the ground.

McPhail also recommends storing products in chew-proof containers (not plastic storage bags) that are locked out of reach.

“One of our customer’s had to take their dog to the vet after it had chewed through the cardboard packaging on a box of slug and snail pellets and eaten the contents.”

Other claims that highlight some of the dangers lurking in the garden and garage include:

  • A BBQ rack that had been sprayed with oven cleaner was put on a high shelf but one dog jumped up and knocked it down. All four dogs had licked it so were taken to vets to be checked for caustic burns.
  • A dog bit an electric hedge cutter when it was on the ground, required suturing for lacerations.
  • A dog ate a tube of polyurethane adhesive glue which conformed to the shape of the dog’s stomach and turned into a 10cm x15 cm mass that had to be surgically removed.
  • A dog required treatment to have a fish hook removed from its groin.

Veterinarian Steve Gordon, Practice Owner at East Coast Bays Vets, says that one of the most common conditions he sees in the summer months is heatstroke.

“This is totally preventable and involves a rise in the core body temperature which can rapidly prove fatal if not identified early. Dogs can’t cool as efficiently as humans, as we sweat freely through ourskin while they rely on evaporation from their tongues and air cooling through their noses.

This means dogs with short noses -such as boxers, pugs and bulldogs – and older dogs, dogs with heart or lung disease and overweight dogs are at higher risk.”

Gordon recommends owners ensure they provide plenty of shade and water, avoid leaving the dog alone in the car and carry extra water for the dog when out on a walk.

“You could always make some doggie ice blocks. Place some treats in a small container – a spare margarine container is ideal -fill with water and stick in the freezer.As a treat on a hot day you can pop the ice block out.”

McPhail says that although it’s typically dogs that end up in trouble, cats aren’t immune.

“One moggie fell into a can of high sheen acrylic paint can and the owner ended up at the emergency vet, who sedated and shaved the cat.”

What to do if you suspect poisoning:

  • Stay calm.
  • Make a note of any symptoms – these could include vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, increased body temperature, muscle rigidity, rapid breathing, increased heart rate and seizures.
  • Look for any signs of consumption – upturned boxes, spilled liquids – and check the packaging for ingredient warnings. A label or container will help your vet know what treatment options are best.
  • Call your vet – or an after-hours emergency veterinary – immediately for advice.
  • Do not induce vomiting without consulting your vet. However, if your dog or cat has vomited, pop a sample in a plastic bag as it may be used for testing and analysis.