Holiday Pet Safety Tips

The holiday season is upon us, a time for families and friends to get together to share some cheer and good food. Our furry friends are never hard to find during this time of year, usually sitting right by our feet to catch any delicious treat that might hit the floor. While we may have a second helping of apple pie or sweet potato casserole, our dogs and cats should steer clear of these and other ingredients found in holiday treats.


Emergencies occur when we least expect them, Emma is here to help you and your companions prepare in the event of a natural disaster.

When disaster strikes SPCA International mobilizes funding to support grassroots organizations doing everything they can to save animals during a crisis. We provide immediate assistance to dedicated partners who risk everything for the safety and well-being of animals in disaster zones. You can support these ongoing efforts by donating to SPCA International’s Disaster Relief Fund.

For more information on how you and your pet can prepare for an emergency check out our Emergency Preparedness resources.

Beat the Heat – Keep Pets Safe this Summer

Most of us enjoy summer hikes, swims, and other outings with our pets… follow these tips to keep them safe from the heat. 

  • Never leave your pet in a car! — A parked car quickly heats up and can reach temperatures 20 to 30 degrees higher than outside. Exposure to this high heat and low airflow can quickly result in the death of a pet. Please leave your pet at home or run that errand later.  
  • Always provide water – In the summer, your pet will naturally drink more water than usual. Make sure they always have plenty of clean water available, especially when you are out of the house. There are some great collapsible bowls for when you and your pet are on the go.  Hiking anyone?
  • Pets need shade – not a doghouse! If pets must be left outside during the day, hanging a tarp is a quick solution for a yard without tree cover. Unfortunately, a dog house can trap heat and become even hotter than outside.  
  • Avoid Asphalt – Hot asphalt can burn our pet’s feet – Consider walking your pet in the morning or evening to avoid the midday sunbaked asphalt.  
  • Trim haircut – Some dogs can benefit from a summer haircut, but they should never be shaved! Check with your vet to learn if you should trim your pet’s coat or not. Some long hair acts as a natural cooling system and daily brushing is the best advice.

If you detect any signs of heatstroke or heat exhaustion, such as excessive drooling/panting, red or blue gums/tongue, vomiting, lethargy, loss of consciousness, collapse and/or uncoordinated movements or if you suspect your pet is at risk, contact your veterinarian immediately for medical care that may save your pet’s life.

Pets and COVID-19: Your Questions Answered

Q: I’ve heard about dogs and cats testing positive for COVID-19, is my pet at risk?

A: The short answer is that most pets are at low risk. There are only limited cases of pets testing positive for COVID-19 and all of them have experienced mild respiratory symptoms and are expected to make a full recovery.

Q: How should I protect my pet from COVID-19?

A: Try to limit your pet’s interaction with other people and animals. For now, walks and fetch with family members is safer than the dog park and cats should be kept indoors if possible. If you are diagnosed with or suspect you have COVID-19, try to limit contact with your pets. If you must interact, wear a mask to protect them.

Q: Can an infected pet spread COVID-19 to my human family members?

A: There is currently no evidence that household pets are a source of COVID-19 infection in humans and there is no reason to believe that pets can spread the disease to humans. Taking proper social distancing precautions for your human family members and pets is the best way to protect all family members.

Q: I’m worried about the possibility of my pets spreading COVID-19 to my family, should I surrender them.

A: Please don’t surrender or abandon your pets because of COVID-19 fears. Again, there is absolutely no reason to believe that pets can spread COVID-19 to humans. Right now, pets can be an incredible source of comfort and they are best off staying with their human families.

**This content is based on information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA).

COVID-19 Safety

For up-to-date information on how to keep yourself and family safe please refer to the World Health Organization and Center for Disease Control.

Please refer to the EPA list of approved cleaning products to ensure that your cleaning products can kill COVID-19 and properly disinfect surfaces. Remember to read the label and follow the approved contact time for your products.

Check out SPCA International’s disaster kit essentials to help prepare your pets for emergency situations.

Veterinary professionals should refer to the American Veterinary Medical Association for guidance during this time.

Use to find a shelter in your area that you can support through adoption, fostering or food donations.

Remember to wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm soapy water. Here are some songs that will help you time yourself.

If you’d like to help us continue to provide vital support to shelters and animals around the world in this most challenging time: 

Ice Melt and Antifreeze

Dear Emma,

I live in the Midwest and we see a lot of snow and ice during the winter. I have 2 dogs who love to be outside, but I’ve heard that ice melt isn’t pet-friendly. Is there a safe way I can de-ice my driveway? – Marcia L.

Ice melt and snow go hand in hand. It helps keep our sidewalks and driveways free and clear of ice but it isn’t always nice to our furry friends. Technically there is no 100% pet-safe ice melt, there are some that are safer than others but they all carry some risk. Even “pet-safe” ice-melts can cause GI upset or irritate your pet’s skin. The safest ice-melt to use in a household with pets is one that has a propylene glycol base, however, you should still take precautions when your pet is around ice-melt. You can protect your pet’s feet with booties during the winter months. If your pet is bootie adverse like mine is, then pet wax like Musher’s Secret can help protect their paws, and make sure to clean their feet off once they’re back inside. Of course, you should not allow your pet to ingest ice-melt, contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect they might have, even the “pet-safe” kind.

Dear Emma,

My sister told me I shouldn’t use antifreeze because I have cats and it could kill them. I live in Michigan, so I need to use it. How toxic can it really be? – Janice H.

Antifreeze is incredibly toxic and one of the most common poisonings seen in small animals. Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol which, even in small doses can be lethal, affecting the brain, liver and kidneys. Antifreeze can taste sweet which makes it inviting to eat for our pets. Signs of poisoning include uncoordinated movement, confusion, depression, vomiting, excessive thirst, excessive urination, diarrhea, increased heart rate, weakness and seizures.

If you have to use antifreeze in your home follow these simple steps.

  • Keep antifreeze containers tightly closed and stored out of the reach
  • Clean any spills immediately.
  • Dispose of used antifreeze containers properly.
  • Check the radiator of your car regularly, and repair leaks immediately.
  • Do not allow your dog to wander unattended where there is access to antifreeze (e.g., roads, gutters, garages, and driveways).

Additionally, the FDA has labeled propylene glycol safe and it is now used for antifreeze, look for antifreeze with this ingredient instead of ethylene glycol. As always if you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze, even if it not showing any symptoms contact your veterinarian immediately.

Obesity and Baths

Dear Emma,

I just took my dog, Max, to the vet and they said he’s too fat! My little Maxy is supposed to lose some weight but how can I say no to his cute face? If he’s asking for food doesn’t that mean he’s hungry? It would be wrong of me to not feed him when he asks right? Please Help! – Jen G.

Our pets know how to get what they want, especially if they’re “food motivated”. You’re having a nice dinner and your furry friend comes over, plops down next to and looks up with those big brown eyes, how can you say no? It’s hard to fight it, but it’s in your pet’s best interest to not be constantly fed extra meals or unnecessary treats. Just like with people, extra weight on animals can lead to health problems. Keeping your pet in a healthy weight class is easy if you follow the recommended feeding instructions for their ideal weight, you can find usually find this on the label or website of the diet you are feeding your pet. If you are preparing your pet’s diet yourself please consult with your veterinarian for proper feeding instructions.

Dear Emma,

My Molly is a sweet 7-month-old scruffy mix, she loves to run around outside and sometimes can get a little dirty. How often should I be giving her baths? – Danny P.

Sometimes our dogs and cats need a little extra help getting squeaky clean, but they shouldn’t be bathed too frequently. Ideally, you should only bathe your dog once a month, frequent baths can cause their skin to dry out and be itchy. For easy messes there are grooming wipes that you can get at your local pet store, these can help quickly rid fur of dirt and grime. When a full bath is needed try to use shampoo and conditioner that moisturizes the skin and stay away from anything too perfumey.

Career Paths and Pets as Gifts

Dear Emma,

My teenage daughter loves animals, she has been an avid watcher of animal law enforcement and veterinary medicine t.v. shows since a young age and has so much knowledge when it comes to pets and wildlife. She will be starting college in a few years and I want to know what paths she could take to help grow her love of animals. – Shanon K.

This reminds me so much of myself growing up. Luckily for your daughter, there are many career paths that she can take that will feed her love for animals. Going into veterinary medicine is the first choice for a lot of people, myself included. The approach I took was to become a veterinary technician, I went to a 4-year accredited college and earned a B.S. in veterinary technology, first and from there to go to vet school if I still wanted to be a veterinarian, some colleges also offer pre-vet coursework/paths. There are also humane law enforcement officers, animal welfare lawyers and animal welfare organizations, which could be shelters or program-based organizations like SPCAI. The best way for your daughter to get a feel for what path she might want to take is to volunteer or get a part-time job with a shelter/nonprofit that also preforms humane law enforcement or a veterinary clinic. A career path is a hard thing to pick and can seem daunting, you may not end up doing what you set out to do. I was a vet tech for 5 years and then woke-up one day and realized I didn’t love my job anymore but I still wanted to work in the animal welfare space, that lead me here to SPCAI. Animal welfare is a labor of love, and your daughter’s love and talents will be embraced and cultivated in whichever field she chooses.

Dear Emma,

My parents lost their dog due to old age a little over a year ago. They talk about how they feel their house is “quiet” and “empty” without a dog but haven’t made any effort to get a new one. I think we should give them a puppy as a gift for my dad’s upcoming birthday but my sister thinks I’m being ridiculous! I think our parents will be happier with a new dog but my sister doesn’t agree, who is right? – Carla P.

Losing a pet is hard and everyone copes in their own time. It’s a nice gesture to want to give your parents the gift of another dog, but unless they have expressed that they are ready and willing to open their home to another dog you should not give them one as a “gift.” A pet is a financial commitment and you shouldn’t commit your parents to that if they aren’t ready. Since they haven’t made an active effort I would guess that they aren’t ready yet, and may still be coping with the loss of their beloved pet. If you’re really set on helping your parents find their next canine companion a good first step would be sitting down with your parents and discuss visiting local shelters and if that’s something they’re interested in. An alternative gift idea could be to make a donation to a local rescue group or shelter in your parent’s name.