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Health - Risks

Animals affected

Dogs, Cats






When living with dogs it’s important to know the risks they face. If we can avoid these risks, we may dodge a nasty surprise or we could even save our pet’s life. You should always consult your local vet when unsure of what to do or how to prevent one of the following cases.

The most common and most serious risks are heat stroke, consumption of toxic products, contact with the pine processionary moth and phobia of fireworks and loud bangs.

Heat stroke

Heat exhaustion happens when body heat increases unchecked and leads to the failure of all the dog’s organs, causing death. Dogs do not have sweat glands, they are more susceptible to heat than humans. In order to eliminate excess body heat they can only pant. Their normal temperature is higher than that of people, approximately 39ºC, but if they are exposed to a period of heat and humidity, without ventilation or water, body temperature can go up as much as trhee degrees more, putting them in grave danger.

Some dogs are more likely to suffer from heat stroke than others, especially puppies, older dogs, those with the appearance of a Bulldog, Boxer or Pug (flat-faced), etc. However, it is best to take safety measures with each and every breed of dog.

Never leave your dog alone in the car. In the summer, the temperature can literally roast them and your pet could die in a matter of minutes. Neither should they be left alone on a small balcony, in a small patio or closed room.

Make sure they always have a shady spot, and that there will be some shade throughout the day, not just at the time you leave them there. They should also always have ample water available.

Avoid taking them out for a walk or letting them do exercise when the sun is at its peak, take water with you and try to stay in the shade.

Symptoms of heat stroke are apathy, difficulty breathing or rapid breathing, muscle tremors, vomiting, rapid heartbeat and staggering. If it is not treated in time it will result in petechiae, haemorrhage, hepatic and renal failure, brain swelling and finally death by multi-organ failure.

If your pet suffers any of these symptoms, you must take it to the vet immediately. Also try to lower its temperature by cooling its head, groin or armpits, ventilating the area and offering it water.

Never leave your dog alone in the car, in a short time, in summer, the temperature can literally roast them and the animal could die in a matter of minutes.

Phobia of fireworks and loud bangs

Dogs have very sensitive hearing, they are capable of hearing sounds which are inaudible to people (up to 60,000Hz). They are capable of hearing the noise produced by storms, firecrackers or fireworks, even those noises which we can’t hear.

On hearing a sound which they are not expecting and not used to hearing, many animals generate a stress response controlled by adrenalin and cortisol, which is extremely difficult to control. Noise phobias are the most common phobias in dogs. In cats they are less common but can exist and the steps to be taken are the same.

In order to prevent animals from generating an exaggerated stress response, it is a good idea to help them get used to these noises early on in life. There are special audio recordings which are marketed specifically for this purpose. The recording is played to the animal while gradually increasing the volume, meanwhile any humans present should remain calm. Even with dogs which have not developed this phobia, remember that it may appear in the future, it a good idea to act similarly whenever you hear such noises. Stay calm and avoid the positive reinforcement of fear (don’t pet them or treat them any differently than you would normally in an attempt to calm them down or feel sorry for them).

If your pet already suffers from this phobia, the best way to prevent it from getting worse or even having your pet run away, would be to carry out a series of measures, such as, keeping calm, not exciting him any further, offering him or allowing him to take shelter where he feels safer (under the bed, in a closet, etc.) and always keeping an eye on his emotional state (preferably not leaving him alone). To prevent the noises from getting to him or to make them less loud it is advisable to close all the doors, windows and blinds, soundproofing the house as much as possible. As a precaution, try not to pick him up or hold him back if he wants to go elsewhere, as he could hurt you by accident.

The firecrackers or the storm may last several hours, or even days, therefore you should try not to go outside during the moments of most intense noise. It is also important to have your dog on a lead and with a name tag (see the page on identification) as he may get a fright and react unpredictably at any moment, even running off without coming when called and could get run over and/or get lost.

The use of pheromones to calm anxiety may be useful in these cases. They are dispersed into the air, a few days before the event begins and as it is going on. In extreme cases your pet may need medication, your vet can give you advice depending on each case, but you should never medicate your dog yourself.

Toxic poisoning

There are some food products or domestic cleaning products, which may produce high toxicity in dogs and cats if they are ingested or inhaled.

There are various symptoms but the most common are hyper-salivation, weakness, breathing difficulties, paleness, paralysis, haemorrhages, ataxia, etc. and they may end up with kidney or liver failure, shock and even death in some cases if they are not treated in time.

It is important to know what products are toxic for dogs and cats, and to make sure to keep them well hidden, out of your pet’s reach.

If your dog or cat ingests toxic substances by mistake, or you suspect they may have done so, take them to the vet immediately, if possible with the packaging or label of the product with details of its composition.

Products you may have at home or in the garden

  • Alkaline cleaning products (solvents, stain-removers).
  • Insecticides (chlorocarbonates, carbamates, avermectins, pyrethrins, organophosphates).
  • Insecticidal collars.
  • Rodenticide (anticoagulants, bromethalin, cholecalciferol, strychnine).
  • Worm and snail bait (metaldehyde).
  • Napthalene, borate, rotenone, DEET.
  • Zinc, lead paints, corrosives.
  • Glues.
  • Glyphosate and other herbicides.
  • Lead.
  • Paints.
  • Antifreeze.

Foodstuffs which humans eat but are toxic for dogs and cats

  • Chocolate (theobromine).
  • Coffee and tea (caffeine).
  • Grapes and raisins.
  • Macadamia nuts.
  • Onions, garlic and derivatives.
  • Avocado.
  • Guaraná.
  • Valerian.
  • Xylitol.
  • Beer hops.

Medicine and drugs

  • Aspirin.
  • Ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatories.
  • Paracetamol.
  • Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine.
  • Cannabis.
  • Barbiturates, opiates (morphine, codeine, methadone, heroin), hallucinogenics (LSD, mushrooms), amphetamines or cocaine.

Herbs or plants which may be found at home or in the countryside

  • St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum).
  • Echinacea.
  • Aloe Vera.
  • Sago palm (Cycas revoluta).
  • Spurge (Euphorbia spp).
  • Gladiola.
  • Jacinto.
  • Philodendron.
  • Caladium “heart of Jesus”.
  • Pothos “devil’s ivy” (Epipremnum aureum).
  • Cyclamen.
  • Daffodil.
  • Tulips.
  • Holly (Ilex spp).
  • Ivy.
  • Azalea or rhododendron.
  • Lilly of the valleys (Convallaria majalis).
  • Rhubarb.
  • Clover.
  • Ricin (Ricinus communis).
  • Deadly nightshade.

Pine processionary

The pine processionary (Thaumetopea pityocampa) is a Lepidoptera (moth) that forms pockets full of larvae in pine trees at the first sign of warmer temperatures at the end of winter / beginning of spring. Between February and April is the period when there is most risk.

They feed for 30 days in the nest and then descend in single file to the ground. These caterpillars then bury themselves in the ground to pupate and eventually become moths.  Due to the presence of urticating hairs, these caterpillars are a risk to humans as well as animals. This is especially true when they are to be found in urban areas where you are more likely to come across them.

They give urticaria and allergies on contact and can be very dangerous if they are ingested.

Avoid walking in areas inhabited by the pine processionary. It is very risky for inquisitive dogs and puppies which tend to lick anything. Watch out for the tops of the trees and the vegetation, if you see these pockets, it is best to go to a different place because there are likely to be caterpillars in the ground in that area.

If these caterpillars come into contact with the dog’s mouth, they cause hyper-salivation, inflammation of the tongue, lips and connected area, blisters and ulcers. Your pet could lose part of its tongue.

You should go straight to the vet for the correct treatment before it’s too late. Its tongue could become necrotic and the animal could suffocate.

In order to learn more about how to prevent other parasitic diseases, such as leishmaniasis, see the section on Parasites.


Our action

  • In Catalonia and others CCAA we carry out a yearly sterilisation and identification campaign aimed at the pets of private individuals at reasonable prices: Soy Responsable (I'm Responsible).
  • On our web page Soy Responsable, you will find up-to-date information about veterinary centres which offer good rates for families who can prove a lack of resources.
  • From FAADA we inform about the benefits of sterilization in companion animals and its consequences in case of not doing so.

What can you do?

  • When your family makes the decision to take in a pet, find out as much as you can about the products which may be toxic for them and the main phobias which affect the species.
  • Keep any products which may be damaging to your pet’s health well out of their reach.
  • Find out about ways to avoid heat stroke and learn first aid.
  • Talk to your vet about any concerns you may have and visit the vet if your pet has any symptoms.
  • Tag your pet in order to be able to recover them easily should they get lost.
  • Get in touch with professionals in order to prevent, or to correct, any behavioural problems and to have the necessary tools to understand your pet. Attending puppy training courses may help to avoid future behavioural problems. 
  • Share our FAADA campaigns and articles with your circle of friends on social media. Together we will get further.

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