It seems like just about every day now, a pet picture goes viral, thanks to its inescapable cuteness factor. Here at Vetstreet, we love an adorable pet photo as much as any other animal lover, but occasionally these photos make us cringe a little — or a lot.
That’s because some of them — a kitten drinking a huge bowl of milk, a dog with three tennis balls in her mouth, a tiny baby sitting on a canine sibling — are actually not cute at all. In fact, they can be very, very dangerous.
We take pride in helping you keep your pets safe and healthy, so we want to use this opportunity to talk about seemingly picture-perfect moments that may not be so perfect after all. Please take some time to scroll through the gallery below. Even the most well-meaning pet owners make mistakes, and it’s important to know about the hidden dangers lurking in these all-too-common photos.
One important note: These photos already existed — we would never put a pet in danger simply to take a picture or make a point.
This is one of the most common — and most frightening — mistakes we see: a parent holding a baby right in a dog's face (or, alternatively, a small child laying or stepping on a pet). This kind of interaction can be incredibly stressful for the dog and dangerous for the child. Unfortunately, many owners don't know which stress signals to watch for in their dogs — including subtle ones like the dog licking his lips or closing his mouth tightly — and don't realize there's a problem until it's too late. Dog trainer and parent Mikkel Becker has shared her thoughts on this dangerous trend, and we agree with her conclusion: No Kodak moment is worth the risk to your child or your dog.
This may be the most iconic image of canine joy: a happy dog riding with her head out the car window. Every dog deserves this experience, right? Actually, no: modern pet safety advocates that all pets (cats too) should be restrained in the car with a secured crate or seatbelt harness. Could you go for 100 drives with your dog hanging out the window and never get into an accident? Probably. But if the unthinkable happens on the hundred and first drive, will you regret letting your dog ride unrestrained near an open car window? Absolutely.
Speaking of iconic images, what's more classic than a cat drinking milk? Nothing, right? Unfortunately, many cats are actually lactose intolerant and struggle to properly digest milk. If your cat has never had a negative reaction to milk, giving her a tiny bit as a rare treat is most likely fine, but it's always a good idea to check with your veterinarian first. And even if your cat likes and is able to digest milk, don't overdo it like this picture here — that is much too much milk for a feline.
Here's another classic: A dog with a bone. What many well-intentioned dog owners don't realize is that giving a dog a bone comes with myriad life-threatening risks: The bone can splinter and pierce the dog's digestive tract, get lodged in his esophagus or fracture his teeth, among other nightmares. The bottom line: Don't give your dog a bone. And really, with so many safe (and awesome) toys and treats available to our canine companions these days, why would you need to?
We've all seen some version of this picture — it's the kind of photo that shows up in our Facebook feeds pretty regularly. It usually involves some kind of ball-crazy retriever, like a Labrador or Golden, and it may be accompanied by a story about how the dog loves his tennis balls so much that he has to have three in his mouth at once! But as Dr. Marty Becker points out, this photo isn't cute, it's dangerous: A dog's strong jaws can compress the balls, and if one accidentally pops open in his throat, it could be deadly. Tennis balls also can be abrasive to teeth and if chewed, can lead to digestive tract obstructions. For safety's sake, limit your dog to one tennis ball at a time for supervised fetch or consider other fun games.
We are all about celebrating our pets, but the lit birthday candle picture makes us cringe every time we see it. We understand dogs well enough to know that a pup's birthday wish is probably not to end up at the emergency vet clinic with singed whiskers — or worse! The photo may be cute, but once again it's not worth the risk just to get the picture. And as a side note, a cupcake is also not a good choice — your canine's digestive system probably won't process sugary cake and ice cream meant for humans any better just because it's his birthday. Stick to celebratory treats made with dog-safe ingredients.
It's natural to want our pets to get into the holiday spirit for Halloween, Christmas and other celebrations — we wouldn't deny you that picture-perfect moment! But watch out for constricting costumes, outfits and accessories. Never make your pet wear anything that's too tight or that will restrict his ability to move, no matter how adorable you think it is. If you need guidance on selecting a safe costume or accessory, check out Mikkel Becker's video for helpful hints.
Oh, gosh. The picture of a dog riding in a bicycle's front basket gets us every time — but not in a good way. Setting your pet in the basket of a stable, stationary bike just long enough to take a posed photo is one thing, but hitting the road with your pooch riding in front is fraught with dangers. It only takes a split second for the dog to jump out of the basket while the bike is moving or to be accidentally ejected by a bump in the road. The next time you go out for a bike ride, please leave your dog at home. Or leave your bike at home and take your dog! We're sure he would love a nice long walk with you — and you'll probably have ample opportunities for some really great (and safe) photos along the way.
Finally, we'd be remiss if we left out this common photogenic hazard: cats playing with string. We think of it as such a traditional toy for felines, but string (and ribbon, yarn, rubber bands, etc.) can be deadly if swallowed. Cats actually have rearward-facing barbs on their tongues that reduce their ability to spit out string or yarn. If the string is ingested, it can make the intestines bunch up like an accordion and actually cut the tissue, requiring emergency surgery. The better choice — in photos and in everyday life — is to avoid this danger altogether and pick out a different, and much safer, toy or activity you know your kitty will love.
Vetstreet.com delivers advice from veterinarians, trainers and pet experts who are dedicated to giving you the most trusted, authoritative information for keeping pets healthy and happy. Our Find A Vet service connects you with leading veterinarians in your area. Launched in 2011, Vetstreet.com features veterinarian-reviewed medical advice and has quickly become one of the top animal health and lifestyle sites on the web. See more.