It makes sense to have one of the first entries focused on safety. Safety provides the foundation for everything else we do to help our golden retrievers live long, healthy, and happy lives. There are lots of areas in which safety should be a concern: playing, going for a walk, play dates with other dogs, riding in the car. A safe environment free of dangerous things your dog might ingest, however, is crucial in the world of golden retrievers. I'll never forget taking one of my golden retrievers to a local emergency room when she developed a very large swelling on her nose subsequent to a wasp sting. Fearing a more exaggerated allergic reaction, and of course it was a Saturday night, I wanted to make sure things did not get worse and cause some real problems for her. So, off we went to the vet ER. Upon walking in the door, we were greeted with a chorus from the staff, all saying in unison." and what did yours eat tonight? The waiting room had no fewer than 4 golden retrievers in it, all of whom had ingested something they shouldn't have.
Golden retrievers are notorious for putting just about anything in their mouths and, more often than not, swallowing it. This can lead to an array of consequences ranging from simple intestinal upset from eating "junk," a situation veterinarians refer to as "dietary indiscretion," to bowel obstruction or even accidental poisoning. If you are new to golden retrievers you will discover this soon enough. If you have lived with golden retrievers before, you will learn that each one is a unique individual. The fact that previous goldens never touched your socks on the floor does not mean the next one will display those same good manners. One may carry around a stuffed toy for weeks, while another destroys it in a flash. My boy loves paper and systematically and methodically removes (and destroys) books from any bookcase he can reach. I now have the bookcases in any room he can enter stacked high on top with books while the shelves remain empty. I tell people it's a new trend in decorating.
Keeping a safe home for a golden is an important part of sharing life with these amazing dogs. I hope the ideas below will help you create a safe environment with fewer problems for your dog and fewer worries for you.
1. Put away, securely, anything that could be harmful. Think like a 2 year old, get down low, see what the dogs see at their level, what can they reach, what would harm them if they did chew on or ingest it, and secure those objects out of reach or in another location. Then stand up and do the same. Eye the countertops. Goldens can be expert "counter-surfers," so what you think is high enough may not be really out of reach for them, especially as they grow. Look especially for some of the items listed further below.
2. The ASPCA Poison Control Center is a wonderful resource. Put their number in your phone, on speed dial, on the refrigerator. Keep a fresh bottle of hydrogen peroxide in your doggie first aid kit. In the event of ingestion of something potentially poisonous, the ASPCA may advise you to administer a specific dose to induce vomiting. Vomiting is not always the right thing in a case of accidental ingestion, so let the poison control center staff tell you what to do. They are excellent. More info here: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control
3. Poisonous plants: On the ASPCA site above, they also have a poisonous plant list that covers house and yard plants. Many very popular plants are quite toxic to dogs and need to be well out of reach.
4. Common foods that can be very harmful to our goldens include
c. Onions and their relatives, which includes garlic and chives.
f. Macadamia Nuts
h. Artificial sweeteners, especially Xylitol
That is a just a starting list of some of the more dangerous foods. Of course other foods can cause gastric upset, diarrhea and vomiting, or the potentially life-threatening pancreatitis, especially foods with a high fat content. Check the ASPCA list for more info.
5. Human medications: use extra caution when storing or working with medications intended for humans. A dropped pill might be grabbed by your golden before you even know where it went.
6. In the yard: be on the lookout for dangerous objects, chemicals and plants. Mulch is a very popular chew for goldens, especially puppies, and even the "natural" products can lead to significant dehydration or gastritis. Cocoa mulch is highly toxic. Insecticides and pesticides can be extremely dangerous. Eating grass with pesticide residue could cause problems also. Plants such as azalea, rhododendron and lillies are common in southern yards and can be dangerous if ingested as you will find on the ASPCA list. Be aware of small rocks and pebbles such as those used in landscaping which some young dogs find enjoyable. At minimum, you could be looking at some expensive dental work. Things that run, slither, slime, croak, and scamper are fascinating, too, and some can be harmful. Be attentive to protecting the wildlife while also protecting your dog.
7. Auto antifreeze: it has a sweet taste and dogs really go for it. Consumption of auto antifreeze has a high fatality rate.
8. Other: here is a catch-all because, as noted above, goldens can and will eat anything. Some love plastic, some love paper, some love socks and other clothing items, any of which can cause gastritis or potentially life-threatening obstruction.
This list might sound rather scary as if the world is full of things that will hurt our dogs. But unlike many risks we face in life, everything on this list is something we can manage or control. Keeping a safe environment for your golden in an important step in helping your companion live a long and healthy live. With a little effort, you won't have to hear the "what did yours eat?" question.
Beth Rodgers, Medical Coordinator