Protecting Your Dog From Common Hazards

Most of us know that you need to “puppy proof” your house when you bring home a new puppy, supervise the youngster carefully, and bar access to stairs or rooms where he could really get into trouble. One friend took her eye off her puppy for only a few minutes, and found she had eaten a chunk of the wall-to-wall carpet! Another had a pair of puppies that stripped off all of the wallpaper they could reach during one joyful but destructive night. So be sure to cover electrical outlets, tape wires to the wall, put a tight lid on your trash can, and put houseplants, remote controls, sharp objects, shoes, cell phones, and other attractive items out of reach. Perhaps the best rule of thumb is that virtually EVERYTHING is attractive to a curious puppy, especially one that is teething!

There are many things we need to keep away from well-trained adult dogs as well. We should never allow a dog to eat chocolate, and it is dangerous, not amusing, to share your alcoholic drink with your dog. Fruit may be healthy, but a Shih Tzu, like a baby, could choke on a grape. Never let your dog wander about the garage, as even a few drops of highly attractive antifreeze or rat poison can kill. Also dangerous are cocoa mulch and common household items like bleach, crayons, deodorants, furniture polish, mothballs, nail polish remover, and suntan lotion. Plants like amaryllis, azaleas, daffodils, elephant ears, hyacinths, lily of the valley, oleander, and rhubarb are toxic (sometimes to people as well as dogs). But did you know that the leaves of tomato plants can also be dangerous, as can peach pits, holly, and wisteria? For more information about dangerous plants and household items, and advice on what to do if your pet ingests something he shouldn’t, check out the Animal Poison Control Center web site. The Poison Control Center also has an emergency hot-line number (888-426-4435) – be prepared to pay a consultation fee with your credit card for this service.

Recently, many of us became aware of another dangerous substance, Xylitol. This chemical, a common sugar substitute found in sugarless gum, baked goods, candy, toothpaste, vitamins, and many other substances, can kill your Shih Tzu. Just one and one-half sticks of sugarless gum can be fatal! In 2002, the Poison Control Center received just two calls about Xylitol poisoning—now it receives thousands of such calls every year.

Another common household object you might never think would harm your dog is your paper shredder. NEVER leave your paper shredder on the automatic on setting—always turn it completely off when you are not using it. Otherwise, your curious Shih Tzu could catch its tail, ear, or even its tongue in the shredder blades, with disastrous consequences.

If your dog does have surgery or a skin problem that requires the wearing of an Elizabethan collar, you should know that there are new varieties of such collars, such as the Kong E-Collar, that are more comfortable for your dog. (I once had a Shih Tzu that was given a collar that was too large, so she was not only uncomfortable, but kept tripping when the edge of the collar got hung up on the carpet as she walked!) However, you should also know that while the new soft collars are great to keep your Shih Tzu more comfortable while keeping him from licking or chewing at raw spots or unhealed incisions, they should NEVER be used on a Shih Tzu that has had eye surgery, because they will not keep him from rubbing his eyes against the collar or other objects or scratching at his face with a hind foot.

Also, even if your Shih Tzu can swim, please never let him wander unsupervised around your swimming pool. I know of more than one Shih Tzu that has drowned in a swimming pool, either because the water-logged coat dragged him down or because he was unable to figure out how to get out.

We hope that these useful tips help keep your Shih Tzu safe and happy.