Veterinarians share 10 things you should never do to your dog

ShutterstockSometimes dog owners can put their pet in harm’s way without even realising it.
  • Insider spoke to veterinarians to find out a few things you should never do to your dog.
  • Avoid giving your dog sticks or ice cubes, which could potentially harm them.
  • Retractable leashes can potentially cause injury to both dogs and humans.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Taking care of a dog isn’t always as easy – and even owners with the best intentions can make a mistake or two along the way.

Here are a few things you should never do to your dog, according to veterinarians.


Never allow your dog to run with a stick in their mouth.

ShutterstockEncourage your dog to play with pet-friendly toys instead of sticks.

Some dogs seem born to play fetch and love trotting around with sticks and branches in their mouths.

But veterinarian Jason Nicholas of Preventive Vet told Insider that, unfortunately, throwing a stick for your dog to catch or allowing them to run around with one can end in tragedy.

“Each year, many dogs are impaled by the sticks their people have thrown for them to fetch. One end of the stick will ‘stick’ in the ground and the dog runs onto the other end of the stick in their excitement,” said Nicholas.

These injuries are very painful and distressing for both dog and owner, and can easily result in death. So, instead of tossing a wooden stick, try throwing a soft rubber toy or ball.


Don’t put your dog on a retractable leash.

ShutterstockThese leashes may lead to injury.

Michelle Szydlowski, veterinarian and anthrozoology instructor at Beacon College in Leesburg, Florida, told Insider that pet owners should never use retractable leashes on their dogs.

“These leashes can cause friction burns in the event it gets twisted around your hand. They are also hard to retract in an emergency and your dog may be injured or injure someone else,” said Szydlowski.

Many retractable leashes extend up to 10 feet or more and may be made out of thinner cord than a traditional leash – and grabbing a dog’s retractable leash in an attempt to stop them from running can lead to serious lacerations and even amputations, reported ABC News.


Never yank on your dog’s leash or use a choke collar.

MikeDotta/ShutterstockIf you find yourself feeling like you should yank on your dog’s leash often, you may want to work to train your pet.

Pulling on your dog’s leash may occasionally be necessary to stop them from running into danger, but regularly yanking on their leash can result in a neck fracture.

“Never yank on a leash for discipline. Dogs have a hyoid bone near the base of their tongue that can be fractured. These fractures can cause a multitude of problems,” said Szydlowski.

Using a choke collar, which constricts when the dog pulls away, is also dangerous. Szydlowski explained that these collars can cause “incomplete hanging,” where the dog dies from the constriction of the neck while they are still on the ground.


It’s never a good idea to put sunscreen on your dog.

Robert Galbraith/ReutersDogs don’t need sunscreen to protect themselves.

Your dog has a thick coat of fur to protect its skin from the sun. Keep sunscreen out of your dog’s reach and off their bodies, as it can be toxic to them.

“Sunscreen contains zinc oxide and can be particularly damaging to a dog’s intestines if ingested. Eating these products can cause your dog to have bloody diarrhoea and bloody vomit, which is indicative of intestinal damage,” said veterinarian Rachel Barrack.


Don’t use any antibiotic ointment on your dog without a vet’s supervision.

ShutterstockProducts that are meant for humans aren’t always safe for dogs.

It’s natural to want to take care of your dogs when they cut or scrape themselves, but Barrack warned that antibiotic ointments meant for human use should never be applied to dogs.

Medications formulated for people, even topical ones, are not necessarily safe for use on pets.

“One of the ingredients in popular antibiotic ointments is neomycin, which has been linked to loss of hearing. Don’t administer neomycin or antibiotic ointment topically to your dog without first consulting your veterinarian,” said Barrack.


Dogs shouldn’t have access to your bathroom — and if they do, make sure to pet-proof the space.

ShutterstockDogs can also make a mess out of your toilet paper.

Barrack told Insider that large breeds, in particular, should be kept out of the bathroom and away from the toilet.

“Toilet bowls do not contain clean water that is appropriate for your dog or cat to consume. Keep the lid down so your large-breed dog cannot access the bowl,” said Barrack.

In addition to housing dirty water, many bathrooms contain cleaning chemicals and personal-care items that may be toxic to dogs. If you have a curious pup, it may be best to keep the bathroom door closed.


It can be dangerous to give your dog ice to play with or to eat.

ShutterstockYou may not want to put ice in your dog’s water dish, either.

When the temperature rises, many dog owners fill their pets’ water bowls with ice cubes or pass them a cube to play with.

However, Nicholas explained that it isn’t good for dogs to chomp on ice.

“Ice is a common culprit in broken dog teeth, especially the larger teeth towards the back of their mouth. These broken teeth are painful and can easily become infected, requiring either a root canal or tooth removal,” said Nicholas.

Plain, cold water or frozen dog-safe vegetables like carrots or sweet potatoes are a better choice for warm-weather dog treats.


Avoid feeding your dog table scraps.

ShutterstockA dog that eats too many scraps could become obese.

You shouldn’t allow your dog to snack on leftovers from the dinner table.

“Feeding your dog meat scraps and other fatty foods, like bacon, can easily lead to a serious and painful bout of pancreatitis or other digestive upset for your dog,” Nicholas told Insider.

A diet of table scraps can also allow your dog to consume too many calories, resulting in weight gain or obesity, said Nicholas.


Don’t ever give your dog alcohol.

David Paul Morris/Getty ImagesSome drinks that are meant for humans can be poisonous for dogs.

Though you may not need to panic if your pet laps up a spilled drop of wine from the floor, it’s important to know that dogs can suffer severe side effects from alcohol consumption.

Pets should never be given alcohol, which depresses the nervous system,” said Barrack. This depression of the nervous system can cause symptoms like hypothermia, diarrhoea, and vomiting.

It’s also worth noting that many drink mixers contain the artificial sweetener xylitol, which is toxic to dogs, even in very small amounts.


Dogs should never be left in the car unattended, even if it’s only for a few minutes.

Mark Metcalfe/Getty ImagesEven if it’s a short trip, your dog shouldn’t be left alone.

Cars heat up very quickly in warm weather, and Szydlowski explained that even a brief period in a hot automobile can be fatal for a dog.

Dogs overheat very easily, and this can cause severe brain damage and other issues … even with the windows cracked, your dog can become hyperthermic in a matter of minutes,” said Szydlowski.

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