Nov 14, 2015

Pet Holiday Safety - Heimlich

You may think that an interior design blog doesn't need to talk about pet safety. I disagree! Holiday times are a time of celebration and happiness and should be safe and happy for people as well as their beloved pets. As an interior designer, I am more aware of safety in the home, for my clients, their children, and their pets. Are many things you might not be aware of that are dangerous.  I frequently decorate client homes for the season and it's important to ensure the safety of their pets by using products that are non-toxic, or placing items that are, out of reach.  As we bring out glitter, tinsel, string and ribbon, and ornaments, some have toxic finishes and surfaces. Just as you would do for your children, it is wise to keep dangerous items out of your pets  reach, and watch them so they stay safe.

Did you know that the wire on Christmas lights is hazardous? If you read the tiny labels carefully it indicates that the wire contains lead. You should wash your hands after hanging them and discourage your pets –  typically cats who love to do this – from chewing on wires.  Speaking of toxic substance, be aware that mercury glass ornaments and decorative objects do contain mercury. Just like with compact fluorescent lightbulbs, accidents that break open the item, should be dealt with carefully and safely to avoid having mercury vapor and powder distributed on you, your pets, and throughout your home.

The frequency of opening and closing doors as you get packages delivered, and even let guests in and out can be a hazard to pets. In San Diego too many pets are lost during the holiday season when they escape outdoors as a door is opened. Extra people, noises, bright lights, and other changes to daily routine can make pets anxious. Be sure that they are safely tucked away or in your control to avoid a devastating event.

Poinsettias, Holly, mistletoe and many other holiday plants are poisonous to dogs and cats. They should be kept while out of reach, and monitor your animals to be sure they don't chew on the leaves and stems.

Protect your beloved pet by keeping holiday gift wrapping well out of reach. If you have bows and strings, be sure they're tied down well and monitor cats since they generally love to chew on string and ribbon. Ingesting can cause chocking or intestinal blockages. 

Food items are another hazard. I have heard clients regale stories of dogs jumping on the holiday table gobble the entire turkey, not to mention attempting to eat the Hersheys kisses out of the bowl, the chocolate cookies freshly baked on the counter, pies left a cool, and many more. Remember that chocolate is highly toxic to dogs and cats.

You should learn the signs of a pet in distress and understand that keeping your cool will likely save their life. Know how to handle poison item ingestion - whether or not to induce vomiting (3% hydrogen peroxide solution at 5 mL per 10 pounds of body weight can help) - and have a veterinarian or poison control hotline number handy. 

If you do encounter a problem, and your pet his gobbled an item that it is choking on, this handy guide by Dr. Karen Becker may help save a life.

Determine whether your dog is choking or coughing. A choking dog will have trouble inhaling, whereas a dog who is coughing will breathe relatively normally.  If your dog is choking, she's suffocating,  will get panicky and may begin pawing at the mouth.

The most common cause of choking is ingestion of objects that lodge in the airway - rubber balls, meat gristle, bones, and chew sticks that swell when they become moist.

Heimlich Maneuver in 9 Steps

  1. Open your pet's mouth and check for a foreign object. If you can see something in his mouth or throat, try to remove it with your fingers, or grip his tongue and pull it toward you to try to dislodge the object. 
  2. Alternatively, move your finger around inside your dog's mouth to try to feel and dislodge any foreign object. (There is obviously a risk of being bitten, so take appropriate precautions anytime you put your fingers in your pet's mouth.) 

  3. If you have no luck dislodging the object by manually removing it, pick your dog up and place his back against your chest. Put both hands under his waist area behind the ribs. Make a fist with your hands, place them behind the last rib, and rapidly push up and in 5 times.
    • If your dog is too heavy to lift, stand behind him, place your arms around him under the rib cage, make a fist with both hands, and pull in and upward rapidly 5 times. 
    • If your dog is unconscious and too heavy to lift, lay him on his right side. Kneel beside him with his legs pointing toward you. Place one hand on the other and place the palm of the bottom hand right behind his ribs. Push in and up 5 times rapidly.
  4. Open your dog's mouth again and look for any foreign object dislodged during the abdominal thrusts you just performed. Move your finger around in his mouth to dislodge and remove the object.
  5. If the object still hasn't been dislodged, with your dog on the ground, put your hands in front of his hips, then lift and suspend him with his head toward the floor.
    • If he's too heavy to lift, lift his back feet, until his head is lower than his hips.
  6. Recheck your pet's mouth and use your finger to feel for the object and remove it.
  7. If this doesn't work, put your dog in a sitting or standing position and use the palm of your hand to deliver 5 sharp blows to his back between the shoulder blades.
  8. Open your dog's mouth to check again for a foreign object. You might want to use a small flashlight to get a better look inside. Use your fingers to try to find and clear the object.
  9. Until the object is dislodged, continue to repeat the above steps. 
  10. If your dog loses consciousness, give him 5 breaths followed by 5 abdominal thrusts and continue these 2 steps (breaths and thrusts) until the object is dislodged. 

As soon as the object is dislodged, check your dog's airway, breathing, and heart rate. Perform CPR if necessary and get your dog to your veterinarian or an emergency animal hospital immediately.