Keep Your Dog Safe from Accidents

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In a 48-hour period last weekend, three dogs who are very close to me ended up in veterinary emergency rooms. It was a very weird aggregation of events – but each event was avoidable, and each dog’s owner has taken responsibility for their dog’s potentially deadly accident.

Beware of Wild Animals Around Your Property

The first accident happened to Daisy, my sister’s little 15-pound Jack Russell Terrier. My sister and her husband live in a rural area, where most of the homes are on lots of a half-acre or more. In addition, they live at the bottom of a steep hill, on a court with just five houses on it, and several empty lots. She sometimes allows her little dogs to potty in the empty half-acre lot next door to her house. The lot is, like her own backyard, studded with oak trees, but unlike her yard, is covered with tall grass, and the little dogs enjoy sniffing and exploring the area as they take their potty break.

On this particular day, though, what my sister failed to notice as she let the dogs wander into the lot, was a female deer apparently lounging at the back of the lot. She didn’t see the moment that two of her dogs discovered the deer – or whether the deer spotted the dogs before they spotted her. But she heard one of her dogs shrieking and as she ran in the direction of the screams, saw a large female deer rearing up and stomping down on one of her little dogs.

Like many of us, she was focused on getting to and protecting her dog, and failed to appreciate the danger to herself as she ran toward the deer. She said she was yelling, “Hey! Hey!” and about 15 feet from the deer, fully expecting the deer to spook and run from her, when it, instead, reared up and charged at HER. She screamed and waved her arms and dodged behind a tree, and fortunately, little Daisy took that opportunity to bolt away from the deer. My sister, too, turned and ran and, again, fortunately, the deer didn’t pursue either of them. I suspect that she had a baby resting nearby or some other reason to go on the offensive. My sister didn’t investigate further, as Daisy was still screaming – now in pain, rather than from fear. The deer’s hooves had made one very deep and long laceration along Daisy’s flank, and her face was bleeding, too.

A night in the ER, x-rays, pre-anesthetic bloodwork, surgery (under anesthesia) to close the laceration and insert a drain, antibiotics, and pain medication: $1,600. Nope, they don’t have pet insurance.

Don’t Leave Out Food Leftovers or Dirty Dishes

pieces of tennis ball and glass from dog's stomach
Pieces of glass and tennis ball, retrieved from Nova’s tummy

The very next morning, I received a call from a friend regarding her dog Nova, who was my favorite puppy from a litter I fostered last fall. (I used her and Nova to model for an article in WDJ not long ago, you can see them here.) She said, “I just need a little support. I am at the ER with Nova and scared!” It seems she had made barbequed ribs the night before, and had left the glass pan, covered with baked-on sauce, on the stove top, to deal with the next day. In the middle of the night, Nova had apparently knocked the pan onto the kitchen floor, where it shattered into hundreds of pieces – and she spent some time licking the sauce off of those pieces of glass! There was broken glass  – and blood – all over the kitchen floor. My friend didn’t hesitate; she just put Nova into the car and drove straight to the emergency clinic.

panting dog
Nova: A little loopy, but no worse for wear after licking and ingesting broken glass, and having it retrieved from her stomach under anesthesia

The attending veterinarian used an endoscope (under full anesthesia) to examine Nova’s esophagus and stomach, and removed several pieces of glass – as well as several pieces of chewed-up tennis ball. She was incredibly lucky; the procedure took place quickly enough that Nova hadn’t yet vomited (which could have made the glass cause damage on the way out of the stomach and in Nova’s throat), nor had the glass hadn’t started to move through Nova’s intestines. The blood that her owner saw on the kitchen floor was definitely caused by cuts the glass made on Nova’s tongue, but none of those cuts (nor others in her esophagus) were serious enough to require surgical repair.

Total cost: $2100. Fortunately, Nova’s owner has pet health insurance. Since she had another vet visit earlier this year and has already spent the $250 deductible for 2019, she will receive a reimbursement from the insurance company for 90 percent of the most recent bill.

Nova’s owner reports: “I have learned my lesson; my counters are the cleanest in the county and there won’t ever be a mistake made like this again. Also, no more tennis balls for Nova.”

Another Counter-Surfing Case

The same afternoon that my friend was picking up Nova after her procedure, I received a text from another friend! “Ricky ate Chaco’s pain meds. We are at (a local vet clinic).”

While ALL medications should be kept in kitchen or bathroom cabinets – never on counters that dogs can reach – this is especially true of chewable medications. Most dogs won’t eat more than one nasty-tasting pill they find lying around. But the chewable kind tempts many dogs into eating the whole bottle – and that’s what Ricky did. He ate about eight Deramaxx pills, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) that can cause liver damage if an overdose is consumed.

chewed-up medicine bottle
The medicine Ricky ate

Again, fortunately, my friend discovered the chewed-up, empty bottle right away, and drove immediately to a veterinary hospital, where they administered an injection of apomorphine, which makes dogs almost instantaneously vomit. So Ricky has (apparently) suffered no ill effects, and the bill was a quite reasonable $170 (no insurance).

We’re All Susceptible

Lest anyone think I am judging my friends: I, too, once had a dog eat a whole bottle of chewable medication meant for another dog (I wrote about that in 2013!). The experience made me VERY careful about where I put medications.

Protecting our dogs is an ongoing, complex task, and none of us can prevent every potentially fatal accident. But all of these were preventable – and my sister and friends  and I all hope that these stories make you just that much more alert and able to prevent any of these accidents from befalling your dogs!

In case you want to learn about more ways to avoid a trip to the veterinary ER, here is a link to an article that veterinarian Catherine Ashe (who practiced emergency veterinary medicine for nine years) wrote for us last year.

33 COMMENTS

  1. The deer attack incident was similar to a friend’s encounter last fall. Her husband had gone out to the pasture and found a deer caught in the fence by his antlers. He used bolt cutters to cut the fence and free the deer but then the deer, in its panic, turned on him, goring him in the stomach. Their dog, a GSD, went at the deer, who then turned on the dog, gored him and killed him. It was a terrible that an act of kindness could result in so much pain. Her husband recovered, but the pain of losing her dog remains.

  2. A friend of mine left a pan on the back of his stove after cooking a meal. He didn’t bother to clean it and put it away before going out for a couple hours although he had several prior incidents of his dog counter surfing and getting into food. Anyway, when he returned, as he approached the house he smelled gas! He opened the door, ran into the kitchen and discovered that his dog had accidentally turned on the gas while trying to get to the pan he left on it. His dog was happy to see him and suffered no ill effects (supposedly because natural gas rises and the air closer to the floor was relatively uncontaminated) but he could smell the gas throughout the house and it took a while for the air to clear. He knows how lucky he was there wasn’t an explosion/fire!

    • This exact thing happened to me! I left a greasy pan on the back of the stove waiting for the next dishwasher load and left the house. My son stopped by and the whole house was filled with gas also. My little Italian greyhound had jumped up and down and turned the gas knob on. We knew he had jumped many times by the multiple scratches he left in the stove’s finish. All the dogs were fine and I never ever leave dirty dishes on the stovetop.

      • I have a friend whose lab burned his house down that way. They lost the house but they all made it out, thankfully. After that, they put child safety covers on the burner knobs and so did we when we got our lab!

  3. My reactive dog in a moment of inattention on my part got out and mauled the neighbors dog. I was able to separate them quickly and the neighbor’s dog ran home. The police was called by same neighbor. We don’t know if the dog is injured or not as our neighbor refuses to communicate. One moment of inattention has soured our relationship with neighbors to the right and left. ☹️😩

  4. I had a mamma deer experience too. We saw the deer with her two tiny twins, waited about 5 min. before proceeding down the driveway, thinking the coast was clear. In fact they had not gone far and Mamma came storming out trying to stomp my little dog. She was screaming and snorting and putting on quite a show, her hooves drumming on the pavement around my terrified dog. I was somehow able to grab my little dog and head back up the hill … with the enraged mamma charging us the entire way, so enraged she was spewing foam from her muzzle. Fortunately, there were no injuries! You can bet I now give deer a very wide berth this time of year when there are apt to be youngsters hidden in the grass!

  5. Our youngest BC used to jump onto our dining table looking for food when our backs were turned. I purchased Scat Mats, which usually are used for cats. They’re battery operated and give a small (adjustable) electric shock; about what you feel when you scuff shoes on a carpet.

    I went upstairs to take a shower and heard a loud shriek! Puck has never climbed into the table since and the mats are no longer necessary. I felt that for her own safety this was a worthwhile use of a harsher form of training than I would otherwise use. While we all try to make our homes as safe as possible, it’s not always easy to control all our family members.

  6. Awful stories…and scary!! Good to know they’re all ok. Now…re insurance. I bought a policy for my GSD when she was 6 months old. Affordable and the same $250 deductible and 90% reimbursement for covered services. However, this year my dog is turning 3 and they increased my premiums over 52%!! Needless to say, I cancelled. I’ll be banking the payments instead of giving them to the insurance company PLUS another $30+/month. Insurance was a blessing. Being gouged on a 52% increase, not so much.

      • Insurance usually is a poor bet. And the more needy the breed, like English bulldogs, the higher the cost. Since they are so prone to medical trouble, they might be one of the few breeds worth buying insurance for. Stuff happens…but usually not. Please check around carefully before blowing money on pet insurance.

        • You are SO wrong about insurance!! I have a 6 lb. Yorkie and I have purchased insurance for her every year since I got her as a puppy. Yes, the insurance has gone up, but EVERY YEAR, the emergency hospital visit amounts that have gotten reimbursed have far exceeded what I paid for the insurance. She eats ANYTHING and her last excellent adventure was eating a plate of Chinese food, complete with onions, soy sauce and hot sauce. I had moved the plate to what I thought was a safe place and ran into the bathroom for 2 minutes and when I came out she was straddling the couch and the table with her head in the plate. I immediately took her to ER hospital and they made her vomit 2 cups of undigested food. The vet could not believe how much food she packed into that little body.

          Over the course of the next couple of weeks, she developed hemorrhagic gastroenteritis and pancreatitis AGAIN. All in all, this adventure cost me almost 2,000 between treatment, x-rays and tests to make sure that she didn’t have anything stuck in her stomach, like a bone.

          I am now dealing with a partially torn ligament in her right hind leg that also has very bad luxating patella. I have to take her for physical therapy in the form of aqua therapy to see if her legs can be strengthened around the patellas to ward off surgery. And yes, my pet insurance will pay for all of it.

          I say THANK GOD I have pet insurance every year. So, no, you are very wrong about pet insurance being a waste of money. If that is the case, then you must think that our own health insurance is a waste of money, since by your logic, “stuff happens…but usually not.”

          I strongly urge everyone that has a dog to get pet insurance, because YES stuff does happen – a lot. They are dogs for God’s sake and they get into everything!

  7. Dogs are our fur babies and need to be protected and treated just like our children. They get into things and are curious the same as our two legged babies. We have to remain two steps ahead of them and always keep in mind of “what if”!

  8. I feel like I dodge a disaster at least once a day with a house full of dogs (my own and foster dogs). I am currently limping after 2 of my younger foster dogs….60 pounds and 30 pounds ran into me as I was bending over picking up poop. It was morning and not too hot yet so I opened the gate between my 2 fenced in yards so the young dogs could have a good workout. They are fine…..they bumped into me and kept going……my 69 year old knee not so good. Thanks for all of the info about the deer….my husband pulls a garden cart full of seed when he is filling the bird feeders in the side yard (outside of fenced backyards)….the deer follow him very closely…I’m going to tell him to be watchful of the deer.

  9. Pet owners need to really understand responsibility. Let your dogs use someone else’s property as a bathroom is very wrong. In our Sheriffs SAR unit you always picked up after your dog even a hundred miles from occupied land. A park, preserve, or campground is for public use. The other incidents were accidents – but still due to owners negligence. Please be more responsible.

    • YES!! No matter where our fur babies poop it is our responsibility to pick it up!! I feel the lack of people doing this has made it impossible for those of us who do to take our dogs to more places! My husband is even known to pick up other dogs poops on our walking trails!! Because we don’t want to loose the right to take our dog there!

  10. I went on to read the article from the ER Vet and was surprised that compost could be bad. I certainly never knew that and it’s good information.
    Hope all the pups are ok, scary how fast they can get into trouble.

  11. One of my springers loved to chase deer in a local park–until the day one of them turned the tables and he came running full-tilt back to mom. He was more hesitant to engage in his favorite sport after that.

    • Bad form! Do not let your dogs chase deer….anywhere,any time! Deer or dog could injure themselves or dart into traffic or fall off a ledge. But mostly it is just plain old mean of you!

    • What would cause you to think it is in anyway ok to allow your dog to chase deer – and in a public park? Thoughtless behavior gives other dog owners a bad name. In my state, harassing wildlife can result in fines. I can’t believe you find this to be an amusing pastime for your animal.

  12. This exact thing happened to me! I left a greasy pan on the back of the stove waiting for the next dishwasher load and left the house. My son stopped by and the whole house was filled with gas also. My little Italian greyhound had jumped up and down and turned the gas knob on. We knew he had jumped many times by the multiple scratches he left in the stove’s finish. All the dogs were fine and I never ever leave dirty dishes on the stovetop.

  13. My 4-year-old dog Osiris spent 8 days in the hospital after my husband decided to start giving him some time out of his crate unattended while I was at work and left my 11-year-old dog Orion’s medications on the kitchen counter. Luckily I discovered that Osiris ate the 83 pimobendan tablets and 15 vetprofen tablets but didn’t touch the over 200 tramadol tablets, 55 mexiletine capsules or 75 sotalol tablets (I use an app to track dosing schedule & refills so I knew exactly how much I had of each medication on hand and exactly how much Osiris ate). Osiris suffered “injuries” to his heart and kidneys, and his kidneys got bad enough for a couple of days that we didn’t know if he was going to make it. It will be a few months before we know if any of the damage is permanent, but he is alive and is getting better every day. Thank goodness I have insurance for Osiris. My husband no longer entertains the idea of allowing Osiris free roam in our apartment when no one is home.

  14. And be careful of potato chip type bags – dog/cat… they put their heads in and their breathing takes the air out of the bag, the bag deflates, gets tight and suffocates them. Thankfully not from experience – saw it on Inside Edition.

  15. Last Thursday night my boy Galoot ate 2 huge corn cobs. I had left the room for literally 20 seconds – when I got back, there was no trace of them. No crumbs, no kernals, no wet spots, nothing. He was under anesthesia for 2 1/2 hours while they tried to remove all the chunks with an endoscope. It was important to act before they migrated to his intestinal tract and caused more serious damage – or death. They got it all and he’s fine now. Cost -$3000.

  16. My two experiences with pet insurance – two different companies – left me determined NOT to fall prey to it ever again. People tend to forget that insurance companies exist to make money – i.e. to deny coverage wherever possible. My first dog cost me about $30,000, for which I was paid about $2,500/lifetime. My second dog, who died just a few days ago, had $2,500/yr/complaint, which failed to cover over $20,000 I paid for her cancer treatment. I will never buy insurance again, because the premiums don’t begin to cover what companies pay out for a major illness.

  17. If you can post the ref. to this article on one of my two Facebook pages, please do. Karen Gadke, and the second page is Stateline Spay/Neuter & Education Fund. It might not work but you can try. I’m a prevention/what if person. I’ll go back in the house to check the stove if I leave the house. My husband thinks I’m overdoing it, but I say, our cats have jumped on the stove and could bump a burner switch and turn the stove on.

  18. OMG. Casually glanced at this yesterday in my e-mail inbox while waiting for an appt. Subconsciously thought it was a good reminder since as a pup parent for decades there have been unfortunate accidents here and there. Didn’t really think any more about it….

    Today I brought my 3 pups (5-9 years old) with me to visit my Dad’s house – an old farm on a couple of acres. Haven’t been out back much this year, and while I quickly mowed a few weeks ago so the grass didn’t become a forest, it is still overgrown here and there. In years past we have had fawns back there as it is a beautiful, peaceful space …even has it’s own small natural spring.

    With this post sort of in the back of my mind, I put my 35lb huntress of a terrier mix on a long leash – she has a high prey drive and then some! We walk around the corner and she instantly alerts. I don’t see anything…. when suddenly I realize we’re looking straight at a coyote.

    I am more than happy to share space with wildlife and (sadly) understand the predators come along with the fawns and bunnies and fat robin fledglings. However, until now, have not encountered them in person.

    Add to this a few weeks ago coming out to the farm, let the pups out in the morning and they suddenly rushed into the house an hour later exhausted and covered in blood and mini-perforated bites. Since there is an occasional snark between my 2 males I was immensely concerned they had fought each other so severely (yet were perfectly happy beside each other when racing into the house.) We DO have pet insurance and the boys were taken care of …. with the vet asking if it could had been a coyote encounter. No, I said, never see them around…. And now as of this morning whole heartedly believe it WAS a coyote encounter which I was ignorantly unaware of.

    Returning to this blog pist and my prey-drive pup on a long leash with me because of it…. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. I would not have had my girl safely on a leash without the story of deer attack and tall grass in the back of my mind. Without a doubt you saved her from likely significant injury if not worse (the strong boys were still up in the house). And because of THAT, you also likely saved future attacks had I not sharpened my awareness and continued to let them out.

    My apologies at the length of this …. however I wanted you to know the impact of your post <3.

  19. Please use baby gates especially with large puppies, to keep from counter surfing in the kitchen until they learn the OFF command.

  20. Regarding medication: my friends goldendoodle came across her daughters prescription for adderol. He ingested nearly the entire bottle. He was in ICU for nearly a week and did fortunately survive but has had seizures since and has had to relearn many behaviors. ANY medication whether it smells good or not can be dangerous.

  21. I first insured Osiris (I posted about him earlier) in May of 2015. I added my youngest cat in January 2016. Since then, for the two of them I have paid less than $2900 in premiums, and this incident cost me the $500 deductible and $1160 in co-insurance. Healthy Paws paid almost $8000 to the hospital. Without the insurance, I would not have been able to keep Osiris alive – I didn’t have $8000 to treat him and wait for reimbursement. Would the hospital have made arrangements? I don’t know – every time I asked about a payment plan during the first couple of days he was in the hospital, they offered me alternatives like applying for another health care credit card (I already have Care Credit, which was maxed out last year with my older dog’s health issues – no insurance on him). Luckily HP was willing to pay the hospital directly and I just had to come up with the co-insurance. I am still ahead of the game with 4 years of premiums paid out, and I am grateful to Healthy Paws for helping to save Osiris’ life.

  22. Some folks refer to their pets as “fur BABIES”, “my KIDS”, “mommy’s/daddy’’s little GIRL/BOY”, etc. If one is going to anthropomorphize, please remember to follow up and support our little darlings with the same caution, care, proactivity, preventative, etc. measures we would use with toddlers. Ever read a story about the mom/dad/aunt/nanny who says, “I only turned my back on him/her for a second to answer the phone! How could he/she have climbed into the pool and drowned so quickly?”

    Most of us love our precious pets as though they are dear family members. Please, please protect them by using good judgement!

    Thanks to those of you who took the time to post cautions.

  23. Another accident that can result in a trip to the ER—or worse—is caused by a dog’s collar and its tags. I learned this lesson myself the hard way many years ago.

    I was a naive first-time dog owner and had two sweet, beautiful “teddy bear” shih tzu-mix puppies. I had taken them out in the back yard and then realized that I had to go back into the house for something. The pups were left alone for no longer than a couple of minutes when I heard a horrible, extremely loud, otherworldly screaming. I bolted back outside to find one of the pups flattened to the deck floor and thrashing about. The tags on her collar had gotten stuck between two boards on the deck, and her thrashing about trying to free herself was just getting her collar twisted tighter and tighter. My fur baby was being choked! She was thrashing about so wildly that I had to literally lay on top of her to keep her still enough so I could release her.

    After releasing her, I held her in my lap trying to calm, sooth, and comfort her. But when she was calm enough that I could gently lift her up so I could see her face and examine her, I saw something that made my heart stop. The whites of her eyes were bright crimson red!

    At the time I lived in a small town that did not have a 24-hour Veterinary ER. It was after my vet’s office hours, so I called her emergency number and asked her to meet me at her office right away. After examining my pup, the vet said that my pup’s panicked thrashing about and twisting & tightening her collar had caused the blood vessels in her eyes to burst, but they would return to white after a few days, which they did. And thankfully, we were very lucky that my pup did not suffer any other injuries. We walked out of the office with just one short-term medication and a Big Lesson learned.

    Since then, I have made it my mission to become as educated as possible and try my best to be a good, responsible pet owner. WDJ has been and always will be a big part of my education, which never ends. I have had dogs for many years now and also volunteer with no-kill animal rescue.

    One more thing: It’s important, of course, for our pets to wear a collar with ID tags, but we should always be cautious and on alert because anything can happen in the blink of an eye. In addition to tags getting caught between deck floor boards, a dog’s collar can get dangerously twisted in other ways—just one other of them being when one dog’s teeth get caught in the other dog’s collar while they are open-mouth playing. So let’s all watch over our beloved furkids and keep them safe.

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