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Dangers to Dogs

black tri puppies Faithwalk Aussies Miniature Amercan Shepherd Breeder Michigan


  On this page I want to list a few of the things to be aware of, such as toxic plants or mushrooms in the yard, water intoxication, toxic algae blooms and other dangers your Aussie or MAS may encounter.

   One of the first things to be aware of with Aussies and MAS,and most herding breeds of the collie family, is they  may carry the MDR1 mutation, which is genetic mutation that can cause them to have serious and even fatal reactions to many common drugs.  This includes Ivermectin, which is found in many of the heartworm prevenatives sold by veterinarians.  Some brands include Heartguard, Iverheart and Iverheart plus, and others.  Unless your Aussies has been tested for the MDR1 mutation and is found to be clear of it, DO NOT use those products.   Many vets are unaware of this issue and the test available for it.  I have read that as many as one third to one half of all Aussies carry this mutation, so it is not rare.  For more information, to see a list of the drugs, or to order a test kit, refer to this website:

     Most people know to avoid things such as chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions and products with artificial sweeteners. It also goes without saying to NEVER give your pet human medications without explicit instructions from your vet.  Some things are deadly, such as Tylenol to cats.  Not as many know about plants or mushrooms, or other things your pets can encounter while outdoors, such as antifreeze.  Even a small amount of that is deadly, and by the time the animal shows symptoms of poisoning, it can be too late.   Something else to consider is rat and mouse poison.  Pets may be attracted to these products and eat them, or even eat mice or rats which have died after eating poison.  Take great care when using such products around pets.

   Every summer I read articles about how a dog ate mushrooms in the yard and became sick or even died.  So be aware of this risk, and pick up any mushrooms or toad stools that grow in your dog's yard.   They can pop up in half a day, and I even check my yard twice a day for that reason. There are Facebook groups for fungi identification, you can post a photo and they will tell you if it's dangerous to pets.

    I also just read about a puppy who ate part of the Palm Sago plant and was in critical condition.  She later died, even with major intensive vet care.  Many dogs die each year from ingesting parts of this plant.  These plants are more popular in the south but any owner should be aware.

   Another risk that is more often seen in mid to late summer is algae blooms in ponds and lakes.  If a dog drinks even a small amount of this water, it may die.  The one article I read was about a border collie in Michigan, but this is a risk in many places in the country.   You may want to limit your dog's access to bodies of water in mid to late summer, just to be safe.  The bloom releases some major toxins!

Another risk to dogs playing in water in summer is "water intoxication" .  It happens when a dog ingests so much water in a short period of time.  This is what happens when the body is overwhelmed with an excessive amount of water. First, sodium levels outside the cells are depleted, a condition called hyponatremia. In an effort to rebalance itself, the body responds to low blood sodium by increasing fluid intake inside the cells. Some organs, such as the liver, can accommodate the increased volume of their swelling cells, but others — in particular, the brain, which is encased in bone — cannot. When suffering from water intoxication, dogs may be nauseous, lethargic or weak. They may also lose coordination and stagger. Other signs can include dilated pupils, glazed eyes and excessive salivating. In severe cases, dogs may also have difficulty breathing, collapse, have a seizure or fall into a coma.  If you suspect water intoxication get your dog to an emergency vet immediately!

Be careful about exercising your dog in warm or hot weather. Dogs are at risk of heat related illnesses and even death. Their feet can be burned walking on hot surfaces too, so if it's too hot for you to put your bare hand on, it's too hot for them to walk on.  High drive dogs may not know when to stop playing too, so step in and bring them into a cool place.

   Also, beware of the risk of Blastomycosis.   It is common around the Great Lakes area, especially in dogs who run in the woods or along waterways, lakes, ponds and such.   You can read more about this disease at:



I should also mention something about Aussies and their potential to chase cars.   If you are considering owning an Aussie and don't have a fenced yard, you may want to find other methods of restraining your dog.  Many Aussies, as they reach maturity, have an instinct to chase cars that pass their property.  Some are killed in this activity.  Whether the urge comes from the instinct to react to movement that most herding dogs have, or to keep strangers away from the property, the end result can be nasty.  So please, do your dog a favor and do not allow free access to a property line that borders a road, no matter how low traffic it may be or how well trained your dog may be.  I just heard from a friend that her beloved young Aussie was hit and killed in just such a situation.  The family is devastated, but if sharing her story here can save one life, her dog didn't die in vain. 

Another thing I sometimes see in the country is dogs riding unrestrained in the back of a pick up.  This is SO dangerous for many reasons.  A dog could jump out in response to something such a running animal, or it could be thrown out if the driver stops suddenly.   If you have to transport your dog, please keep it inside the cab, or at the minimum use a sturdy crate that is firmly secured to the truck bed. 

 I also want to bring up the topic of leaving your dog in the car in the summer.   No matter how many times this warning is issued, every year pets and children die of heatstroke after being left in a car in summer heat.  Even with the windows partially down, the temperatures can rise to deadly levels in just a few minutes.  PLEASE, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS OR CHILDREN IN A PARKED VEHICLE IN THE SUMMER!  If you have to take them to run errands, either stay in the car and keep the air conditioning running, or take them inside. 


Some other dangers to your Aussie (or any dog) also include suffocation in plastic bags or containers.  You can imagine how a food oriented dog may stick it's head in an open bag of chips or cookies, or a plastic container to try to get the food out.   Once stuck, the dog may panic and not be able to remove it's head, and is at risk for fatal suffocation.  Please be very aware of this risk and don't leave food bags or containers where your dog can reach them.

Another thing I read about every so often, is dogs who are playing and one gets it's jaw caught in the collar of another. This can lead to serious injury, or worse, fatal strangling.  I don't leave collars on my dogs at home, since our property is securely fenced. They also would never wear collars in crates at home.  You can find break away collars which are designed to break if much force is applied.  Then you can use a sturdier collar for walks or training.   NEVER leave metal choke type collars on your dog, as these are much more likely to get caught on things and kill your dog.  I can't stress this enough!  

While I am not a fan of tying dogs up (I'd rather see them in a securely fenced yard), if you must use a chain or tie out to restrain your dog, make sure it can't hang itself by climbing on a dog house, porch or jumping a fence and then not being able to reach the ground on the other side.  

I am not a fan of the underground or electric type fences.  I know too many dogs who had that as their primary form of restraint, who are now dead after they went out into the road.  These fences don't hold dogs reliably enough for me to recommend them as safe. There is risk of malfunction, or just that the shock that is supposed to prevent the dog from leaving isn't enough motivation to keep a dog in the yard when that dog is faced with something really interesting.  Also, it doesn't prevent other animals or people from coming into your hard and harming your dog.  Investing in a real fence will go a long way toward keeping your pet safe!  I personally know of dogs who have died while using such a system, when they escaped and ran into the yard.

I will add a lot more to this page, but wanted to get these few things listed right away.


Some dangerous plants:

  I want to thank Michaele for sharing her story of a near tragedy involving her two  Aussie pups who ate Lily of the Valley flower bulbs. Thankfully with emergency vet care they survived, but it was a scary event!  She wanted me to warn owners of the dangers of these plants, as well as Sago Palm, there is Azalea, Rhododendron, Oleander, Hydrangea, Poinsettia, Daisy, Garlic, Holly Bittersweet, Apple, Apricot, Asparagus Fern, Avacado, Ivy, Helebore, Geranium, Gardenia, Nandina, Mums, and many house plants. 


    Here is a more comprehensive list of plants that are toxic and non-toxic to pets:


"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God.
  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Philippians 4:6-7


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