Pet Safety

Hot Weather Advisory: MSPCA-Angell’s Pet Safety Tip

How to Keep Your Pet Safe as Temperatures Rise

It is important to keep your pet safe and comfortable during the dog days of summer. The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals-Angell (MSPCA-Angell) recommends its following list of pet care tips to ensure your animal has a safe and healthy summer.

If your pet exhibits the following signs please contact your veterinarian and animal emergency service as these are signs of heat stroke and can prove fatal: excessive panting, vomiting, tiring easily, diminished appetite, and lethargy. Angell Animal Medical Center (617 522-7282) is open 24-hours-a-day/seven-days-a-week if you pet is in need of immediate medical care.

Hot weather is hard on pets as well as people. Try to exercise pets in the early morning or late evening when the weather is cool. Keep pets safely at home versus taking them in the car. The inside of a car can heat up to 110 degrees in 10 minutes on an 80 degree day even with the windows slightly open. Your pet could be in danger even on a moderately hot day.

Think twice before bringing your dog to the beach or park on very hot days. When there is not enough shade or access to water, they can quickly become dehydrated. When taking pets for walks on hot days, be sure to pack plenty of water for you and them!

Remember your pet’s breed. Breeds with short noses like Pugs and Persians are more susceptible to breathing difficulty in hot weather.  

Plan ahead for vacations. If your pet cannot go with you, find a trusted and competent pet sitter. Check references, qualifications and training. When choosing a kennel, make a personal visit to check for cleanliness, staff qualifications, security, safety, health requirements, and veterinary care. Ask your pet’s veterinarian and others for referrals and request references from the business.  

Take your pet for a check up. Test dogs for heartworm and groom pets regularly to check for fleas and ticks. Ask your veterinarian about heartworm and flea preventative medication for both dogs and cats.  

Always have your pets wear a collar and current ID tag. The summer months are an especially busy time for lost pet calls to shelters. If your pet has no collar or ID tag, the chances of finding him diminishes greatly.

Finally, make sure that your pets, as well as~your friends' and family’s pets, are spayed and neutered.


(Urbana, IL) March 14, 2005 -- The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center wants to educate pet owners and veterinarians across the Nation during National Poison Prevention Week (March 20-26) on the five most potentially dangerous plants to cats, dogs and other companion animals. According to data compiled by the Center from January 2001 to December 2004, the most commonly reported plants with the potential to produce life-threatening problems in pets were Lily, Azalea, Oleander, Sago Palm and Castor Bean. “We typically recommend that pets not be allowed to eat plants in general,” says Dr. Safdar Khan, Veterinary Toxicologist for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.

“However, it is especially critical that these plants be kept out of the reach of animals, as they have the potential to cause serious, even fatal systemic effects when ingested.”

Lilies rank number one in dangerous plant call volume, with over 45% of the top five deadliest plant calls involving lilies. Both Lilium and Hemerocallis species are very popular flowering plants that can be found in gardens and floral bouquets across the country at various times of the year. However, they are considered to be highly toxic to cats, and “while the poisonous component in lilies has not yet been identified,” states Dr. Khan, “it is clear that with even ingestions of very small amounts of the plant, severe kidney damage could result.” An owner in eastern Pennsylvania unfortunately lost her cat to kidney failure in April 2004 from ingesting only a small portion of an Easter Lily plant.

Azaleas (Rhododendron spp.) are indigenous to the wooded and mountainous regions of the Eastern and Western United States, and are also commonly used in landscaping as an ornamental plant. Azaleas contain substances known as grayanotoxins, which Dr. Khan says can produce vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, weakness and central nervous system depression in dogs, cats and other animals. Severe azalea poisoning could ultimately lead to coma and death from collapse of the cardiovascular system. While Oleander is a native plant of the Mediterranean and Asia, like Azalea it is frequently used as an ornamental plant in the U.S. “All parts of the Oleander plant (Nerium oleander) are considered to be toxic,” says Dr. Khan, “as they contain cardiac glycosides that have the potential to cause serious effects including gastrointestinal tract irritation, abnormal cardiac function, a significant drop in body temperature (hypothermia) and even death.” In late summer 2003, a border collie in central Colorado developed serious cardiac effects after ingesting a few Azalea leaves, while a cat in southern California began vomiting and became very depressed from nibbling on an Oleander plant. Both pets fortunately recovered after treatment at local veterinary hospitals.

Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta) and other Cycas species can also be potentially deadly to pets. These popular ornamental plants, native to subtropical climates such as the Southern United States, contain toxic compounds that Dr. Khan states “can potentially produce vomiting, diarrhea, depression, seizures and liver failure.” All parts of the plant are poisonous, but the seeds or "nuts" appear to contain the largest amount of toxins. As with the other plants on this list, very little plant material can produce a poisoning; the ingestion of just one or two seeds can result in very serious effects. An American Pit Bull Terrier in northern Florida became very ill and subsequently died from liver failure in March 2002 after chewing on the leaves and base of a Sago Palm in his owner’s yard.

As with Sago Palm, the beans or seeds of the Castor Bean plant (Ricinus communis) are the most toxic portion, as they contain the highest concentration of poisonous component and according to Dr. Khan, are particularly dangerous if chewed or crushed.

However, the leaves, stem and other parts are toxic as well. Castor Bean plants are indigenous to the tropical regions of Africa and the West Indies, but have become a part of the natural foliage of the southern portions of the U.S. and are used as an ornamental plant in many American gardens. In the Castor Bean plant, the poisonous principle is ricin, a highly toxic protein that can produce severe abdominal pain, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, weakness and loss of appetite. In severe cases, dehydration, muscle twitching, tremors, seizures, coma and death can be seen.

In August 2002, a Labrador Retriever in southern Arizona developed serious gastrointestinal irritation including bloody diarrhea and vomiting after ingesting several castor bean seeds; her condition required intensive care at a local emergency clinic.

Dr. Khan states that awareness is key in preventing accidental plant poisonings. He also advises that “if a pet owner suspects that their animal may have consumed one of these or any other potentially toxic plant, it is important that they act quickly and contact their local veterinarian or call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (1-888-426-4435) immediately for help.”

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Winter & Holiday Pet Safety

The cold weather and holiday season is fast approaching.  A joyous time of the year, but for our beloved pets, it’s also a season of risk.  Many of us change anti freeze in our vehicles this time of year and many do not know the dangers of ethylene glycol, a key ingredient in anti freeze.  To our pets, especially dogs, its sweet and animals will eagerly drink it if given the opportunity.  Ethylene glycol quickly causes massive damage to the liver and without immediate medical attention it can be fatal.  Please watch your pets closely and make sure you dispose of used anti freeze properly, (Belmont hosts an on-going hazardous waste disposal program.  Contact the Health Department for details; 484-4601).

Other dangers include turkey bones and other festive foods left around for a quick grab by a hungry pet.  Bones, chocolate and other “human” foods can cause problems for our pets.  Bones can easily perforate intestinal linings and chocolate contains chemicals that cause heart problems in dogs.  Over-eating can also be detrimental to your pets’ health, as well as the consumption of too many different types of food items.  Be sure to keep your pet away from tempting places and keep food and trash items out of their reach.  

Wrapping paper and tinsel left lying around quickly become play toys for cats.  Tinsel is notorious for causing massive intestinal destruction when ingested by cats or dogs.  Keep a sharp eye out for any changes in behavior and/or eating habits and don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian at the first signs of illness.  Time is crucial to the survival and treatment of your pet regarding issues discussed here, as well as many others.  

Last year provided us with record freezing temperatures.  Pets left outdoors without adequate protection from the elements can and will suffer from cold injuries.  Pets housed outdoors must have protection from wind, rain, snow and have fresh, unfrozen water at all times.  Consult with your veterinarian or the Animal Control Officer regarding proper outdoor housing for pets.  Please remember that although legal, dogs that are left alone outdoors in can suffer other than physically.  Dogs are social animals and really need the companionship of their owners to keep them happy and out of trouble.  Animals that have little socialization, especially dogs can quickly become a problem by barking, chewing themselves, aggression and believe it or not, depression.

Questions about animal control in Belmont can be directed to the Animal Control Officer in the Health Department at 617-993-2720.

Common Pet Poisons

Angell Memorial Hospital has set up a Pet poison emergency line.  Free to call, but a $50.00 per case charge if you bring your animal in.  Call 1-877-2ANGELL  (1-877-226-4355).  Here's a partial list of common household pet dangers/poisons:

A partial list of toxic plants:

  • Mistletoe
  • Lilies     
  • Raisons
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Chocolate

Other common items:

  • Ice Melt
  • Batteries
  • Medecine
  • Tinsel