We here at the McAfee Animal Hospital believe that every pet needs a healthy diet, lots of love and a safe place to live! Below are some guidelines and safety tips that will help you and your pet avoid our emergency services and ensure your pet’s safety throughout its life.

Pet Safety in Valparaiso: Dog with ball

Below is a listing of items that should be kept safely stored and away from your pet:

  • Anitfreeze.
  • De-icing salts used to melt snow and ice.
  • Chemicals used on lawns and gardens, such as fertilizer and plant food.
  • Cedar and other soft wood shavings, including pine. They emit fumes that may be dangerous to small mammals like hamsters and gerbils.
  • Human medications including pills and ointments.
  • String, yarn, rubber bands, and dental floss.
  • Toys with removable parts-like squeaky toys or stuffed animals with plastic eyes.

As a pet owner, there are other areas of the house that should be made “pet-proof” to ensure the health and safety of your pet:

  • Keep all electric cords out of reach or covered by a chew-proof guard. Puppies and kittens will chew on anything.
  • Don’t leave any medicines on tables, chairs, or in open cabinets.
  • Cover your outside pool or pond. Many heavily-coated dogs and cats may be unable to swim to safety when their coats are soaking wet.
  • Keep all painting supplies in closed cabinets.

Every year, many pets suffer and die from heat exhaustion because their owner thought it would be “OK” to leave the pets in the vehicle. Nothing is further from the truth. Below are several tips and ideas to ensure your pet’s safety during the hot summer months.

  • Never leave your pet in the car. The sun can raise the temperature in the car to 120 degrees Fahrenheit within minutes.
  • Your pet needs access to lots of fresh water during the summer, so check water bowls several times a day to be sure it’s full. If you go outside, be sure to bring plenty of water for both of you.
  • If they’re extra thirsty, pets are bound to drink something they shouldn’t drink. Puddles of what looks like water may be on the ground, but they may include antifreeze or other dangerous chemicals. Antifreeze has a sweet taste to dogs and cats, but it is toxic and can kill.
  • Your pet can get sunburned, and can cause some of the same problems as with people: pain, peeling, and skin cancer. Keep your pet out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. When you do go outside, rub a bit of pet safe sunblock on unprotected areas like the tips of the ears, the skin around the lips, and the tip of the nose. Some sunblock can be dangerous to your pets. A rule of thumb: If it’s safe for babies, it’s safe for your pets.
  • Don’t overdo it in the heat. Keep walks to a gentle pace. If your pet is panting a lot or seems exhausted, it’s time to stop.
  • Even if they’re in the shade, animals can get sick quickly on hot days. Keep them inside as much as possible. If you have to leave them outside, check on them regularly.
  • Watch for Heatstroke – It can be fatal! If you suspect your pet has heatstroke, call a veterinarian immediately. In the meantime, lower the animal’s body temperature by applying towels soaked in cool water to the hairless areas of the body. Often the pet will respond after only a few minutes of cooling, only to falter again with his temperature soaring back up or falling to well below what is normal. If you suspect that your pet is suffering from heat stroke, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Signs of Heatstroke are:

  • Panting
  • Staring
  • Anxious expression
  • Refusal to obey commands
  • Warm, dry skin
  • High fever
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Vomiting
  • Collapse


Hypothermia and dehydration are the two most probable life-threatening conditions for animals in cold weather. Make sure your pet is indoors or in covered shelter, with plenty of food and water. Blankets or thick towels, even an old quilt will give your animal something to snuggle in against the cold. If you cannot bring your animal inside, check on him or her regularly.

Animals drink less in cold weather, so it’s important to make sure your pet is getting hydrated. Be sure your pet’s water supply does not freeze.

Very young and older animals need special attention during the cold. Their immune systems can’t handle the weather as well as other pets.

Be aware that some chemicals used to melt snow are hazardous to your pet! Keep a close eye on them when they’re outside, and be sure to clean off their feet when they come back inside. That way, they won’t lick their feet and ingest any toxic residue.

Call your vet immediately with any health concerns.

The holidays are a time of celebration, but as a pet owner, you should take extra precautions to protect your pets health and safety.

Cats may view strings of tinsel as a fun and tantalizing toy, and they often pull the silver stuff off the tree by the mouthful. However, once ingested, the tinsel can become entangled in the cat’s intestines and can create a life threatening obstruction. It is best to avoid tinsel altogether if you have pets in your house.

Mistletoe is a small evergreen plant with white berries that is traditionally hung around the house in hopes of inducing festive “smooching.” All parts of the plant are toxic and as few as three berries can be lethal to a child. It is best not to have mistletoe in a home with pets or children. If it is a “must have” item for holiday tradition, find a plastic replica or seal the living plant in plastic and tack it firmly in place. Remove it as soon as possible when its desired purpose has been achieved.

Because so many Christmas ornamentation need electricity, electrical cords are in abundance this time of year. Be careful to keep pets, especially puppies and kittens, from chewing on cords. Limit the length of cords, pets’ access to them, and inspect the cords frequently for any signs of fraying.

PINE NEEDLES – Not only ingesting needles, but even drinking water from the Christmas Tree base is enough to cause diarrhea, vomiting, mouth sores and loss of appetite.

Keep chocolate away from dogs. Dogs LOVE chocolate; unfortunately, it contains a stimulant harmful to them (in addition to being loaded with fat and sugar). Keep chocolate in cupboards or sealed containers and off shelves, countertops, and coffee tables. Also beware of suspiciously good-smelling wrapped packages under the tree-no thoughtful friend or family member minds being asked if it’s chocolate when it’s for the safety of the family pet.

Halloween is a fun time, but can be scary and dangerous for your pet. Here are some suggestions to ensure and safe and enjoyable Halloween:

Keep all candy out of reach, not just chocolate! A lot of people know chocolate is dangerous to dogs, but so are other candies. Sugar can cause nasty gastrointestinal upset. Lollipop sticks and plastic parts and wrappers can cause intestinal obstruction and potentially rupture the intestines:

Keep decorative light strands away from curious puppies and kitties. One chewing session can be dangerous and possibly deadly.

During Halloween night, keep your pets locked indoors and away from trick-or-treaters. Dogs especially may feel that their territory is being invaded by the constant onslaught of visitors. Keeping your dog in a secluded area of the house will help him stay calm and keep him from growling or possibly biting your visiting ghouls and goblins. It will also keep your pet from being able to dart outdoors.

Don’t take your dog along trick or treating. Even typically calm dogs may get spooked by excited, shrill voices and strange costumes.

Make sure your dog has current, accurate & readable identification tags. If you have recently changed your address or phone number, update the ID immediately. If you haven’t yet, take this opportunity to have your pet micro-chipped with an AVID chip. Your vet can help you with this easy, painless procedure.

If you have a black cat, be especially careful about keeping it indoors on Halloween. Some people are superstitious about black cats and may try to scare or harm them.

An animal in a costume should NEVER be left alone and unsupervised. Some pets, if left alone in costume, may chew it up and ingest it. This could cause intestinal obstruction. If the costumed pet escapes or is frightened away, the costume could get caught on trees, fences, or bushes, and your pet could get hurt.

Thanksgiving weekend can be a very busy time for the veterinarian. Often, animals get sick because of distracted or careless pet owners on Thanksgiving Day and the days that follow. Most of the problems are gastrointestinal and can be prevented.

Keep away from your pets:

  • Turkey Bones (They are hollow and splinter easily into sharp pieces. The splinters can lodge in your pet’s throat or intestine or cause punctures to the intestinal tract and create blockages).
  • Turkey Carcasses (Parts may be undercooked and infected with Salmonella).
  • Fatty Meats & Gravy.
  • Baked Goods.
  • Garbage containing any leftovers (Don’t forget your outside garbage).

Instead, celebrate the Thanksgiving season with your pet by:

  • Add a teaspoon of white turkey meat or broth to your pet’s food to share the “Thanksgiving experience” with your animal.
  • Treat pets to goodies and gifts made especially for them.

Here is a listing of human foods to keep away from your pet:

  • Onions and onion powder.
  • Alcoholic beverages.
  • Grapes.
  • Macadamia nuts.
  • Turkey & chicken bones.
  • Chocolate – even 1 ounce of CHOCOLATE is dangerous to a small (10 lb) dog. Theobromine is the actual toxin. Symptoms include: diarrhea, vomiting, “intoxication”, hyperactivity, muscle tremors, seizures and could lead to death.
  • Yeast dough.
  • Coffee grounds and beans.
  • Salt.
  • Tomato, Potato and Rhubarb leaves and stems.
  • Avocados (toxic to birds, mice, rabbits, horses, cattle, and dairy goats).
  • Anything with mold growing on it.
  • VITAMIN D (as included in some rat poisons)and Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) are toxic to cats and dogs as well as rodents. Within 12-24 hours, the following symptoms may occur: lethargy, vomiting, constipation, increased thirst and urination. Twitching, seizures and even death can occur in a few days if there is no treatment.

Household plants to keep away from pets:

  • Azalea.
  • Geraniums.
  • Dieffenbachia (dumb cane).
  • Lilies.
  • Philodendron.
  • Pointsetta (highly poisonous to cats).

We all want you and your pet to be safe while enjoying the great outdoors. Here are a few tips and suggestions to ensure a happy time with your pet:

  • To maintain control of your pet in public, keep your dog on a leash at all times. Always keep a close eye on your pet, and keep them within view at all times.
  • Keep pets away from ice-covered ponds and lakes. Cats and dogs may wander onto ice too thin to support their weight.
  • Sniffing is an acceptable activity, but don’t allow your pet to eat or drink anything in a public area (except for the public drinking fountain).
  • Make sure your pets have proper identification in the form of ID tags or microchips, so if they escape, you can be quickly contacted when they are found.
  • Apply a flea & tick repellant
  • Map out your journey – know how and where. Know your surroundings, including steep slopes, hot sand or asphalt, and sharp rocks. Provide plenty of water. An average, healthy, resting 100 lb. dog requires about 3 liters a day. That may double if he’s exercising. Do not let your pet drink ocean (salt) water.
  • Keep an eye on your dog. Is he showing signs of heat exhaustion? The signs are excessive panting, difficulty breathing, lack of urination, brick red gums, staggering, vomiting, or diarrhea. If you are nowhere near help, immerse your pet in cool water and rest in a shady area.

I have been a client of McAfee Animal Hospital for many, many years. That alone testifies to my faith in the doctors, and staff. I am very satisfied, and my recent visit with Dr. Danielle was very informative, reassuring, and professional. I felt very confident in her care of my Griffie, Wicket.

-Ann L.