6 Common Dangers to Watch Out For When Walking Your Dog


Walking a furry companion on a sunny day has innumerable benefits for both dogs and their owners, something researchers have dubbed "the Lassie effect." Neighborhood strolls help meet weekly exercise recommendations and can even aid in lowering your risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis. For the pooch, regular walks can reduce their risk of illness and help keep their weight under control (though diet remains the most important factor in preventing dogs from tipping the scale).

While these excursions are almost always beneficial, there are certain hazards to keep in mind when venturing outdoors with your dog. We asked Stephanie Liff, DVM, owner of Pure Paws Veterinary Care in Manhattan, about some of the more common canine dangers encountered during strolls and what to do in case a good walk gets spoiled.


Large dog lying in the grass.

Dogs trotting through neighboring lawns will eventually encounter grass that's been chemically treated to keep it healthy or to ward off insects. If your pet rolls around on it, a contact rash might develop. "They might get itchy or you might see some vomiting," says Liff. If the dog’s skin seems irritated, washing in dish soap is a good idea: It cuts through the kind of oil-based products typically sprayed on lawns. If irritation persists, you can administer an antihistamine like Benadryl or contact a vet for further advice.

Insecticides are generally formulated to target insects, not mammals, but you should take care to keep your dog from ingesting rodenticides, which are blocks of poison found near bushes and intended to kill mice and rats. Rodenticides cause internal bleeding in pests and dogs alike. Lethargy, coughing, and weakness should be addressed by a professional immediately.


Sleepy bulldog

Relaxed state laws concerning marijuana possession are a likely reason the number of reported incidences of accidental ingestion in pets have risen in recent years. Dogs might be more susceptible to the effects of the drug than humans due to having more cannabinoid receptors. While woofing down a discarded joint (or an edible left out at home) is not likely to be serious, Liff says a dog's reaction depends on their size. "Most dogs typically don’t get ill but smaller dogs can experience low blood pressure and a low heart rate," she says. If a pet has indulged but acts normally, at-home monitoring should be sufficient. If he or she acts dazed or sleepy, get them evaluated. Treatment is usually just getting IV fluids.


Small dog drinking water out of a puddle.

Even if your dog isn't prone to vacuuming every strange object in sight, they might still want to stop for a drink at the nearest body of water. That can be a deceptively serious situation. Some ponds have blue-green algae, which is highly toxic to dogs and can cause neurological symptoms, excessive drooling, and gastrointestinal issues that need immediate attention. Drinking or wading in such water should be avoided. Also try to monitor your dog around saltwater, as fetching in oceans can lead to accidental ingestion, causing diarrhea and dehydration.

You want to be wary of standing water anywhere, Liff says. "Muddy puddles in parks can contain bacteria called leptospirosis, which can be fatal." There is a vaccine, but it's best not to let your dog drink from anything but water you carry yourself or a nearby tap.

4. GUM

Border collie on a sidewalk looking at camera.

Dogs coming across gum or candy should keep on walking. Many sweets are made with Xylitol, a sugar substitute that doesn't agree with a dog's digestive system. "The immediate effect is that it tricks the body into thinking it's sugar, causing hypoglycemia," Liff says. "They'll be woozy and weak. At a high enough dose, dogs can develop liver failure within 72 hours." If you suspect Xylitol consumption, get them to the vet. According to Liff, "we'll make them vomit."


Dog carrying a bagel in its mouth.

Thanks to coffee shops discarding their trash and people tossing aside half-eaten bagels for birds to enjoy, a dog stroll can expose your pet to a potentially dangerous breakfast snack. "Dogs cannot eat raisins or grapes," Liff says. "It's toxic to their kidneys." A lot of pet owners know this, but aren't mindful of stray raisin bagels that might be within a dog's reach. Even small amounts can cause vomiting, lethargy, and kidney failure. Vet care is necessary.


Two golden retrievers in a park.

We're bombarded with advice to slather ourselves in sunblock, and pets need some, too. Dogs with lighter-colored coats, Liff says, often have sensitive pink skin underneath that should be protected where hair is thinner, like around their nose. While there are pet sunblocks available, anything with zinc and that's PBA-free should be fine.

"Heat irritation from hot pavement is also common," she says. "It can burn their pads." Some dogs can tolerate boots for walking on hot surfaces. If not, some ice and moisturizing products to ease blistering will help.

Pet owners should also try to discourage dogs from eating poop, as it can contain parasites. And be sure to check them for ticks after being outdoors by running your hands along their body to feel for bumps.

If you suspect your pet has ingested anything potentially harmful, call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661. The latter charges a $59 consultation fee.

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Why Does Altitude Affect Baking?

This woman is going to make a quick stop at Whole Foods' bakery section before book club.
This woman is going to make a quick stop at Whole Foods' bakery section before book club.
nicoletaionescu/iStock via Getty Images

Even if you’re highly skilled in the kitchen, you might find yourself with a deflated cake or bone-dry brownies if you happen to be baking in Aspen, Colorado, for the first time. But why exactly does an oven at high altitude so often wreak havoc on whatever baked good is in it?

According to HuffPost, it all comes down to air pressure. The higher you are above sea level, the lower the air pressure is. This is mostly because there’s less air pressing down on that air from above, and it’s also farther from the gravitational forces on Earth’s surface. With less air pressure keeping liquid molecules in their liquid form, it takes less heat in order to vaporize them—in other words, boiling points are lower at higher altitudes.

“For every 500-foot increase in altitude, the boiling point of water drops by 0.9°F,” Dr. Craig F. Morris, director of the USDA ARS Western Wheat Quality Laboratory at Washington State University, told HuffPost.

Since liquids evaporate at lower temperatures, all the moisture that makes your signature chocolate cake so dense and delicious could disappear long before you’d normally take it out of the oven. To avoid this, you should bake certain goods at lower temperatures.

With less air pressure, gases expand faster, too—so anything that’s supposed to rise in the oven might end up collapsing before the inside is finished baking. Cutting down on leavening agents like yeast, baking powder, and baking soda can help prevent this. This also applies to bread dough left to rise before baking (otherwise known as proofing); its rapid expansion could negatively affect its flavor and texture, so you might need to adjust how much yeast you’re using.

If all the ways a recipe could go wrong at high altitudes—and all the experimentation needed to make sure it goes right—seem like a lot to keep track of, Betty Crocker has a handy chart with various types of baked goods and suggested modifications for them.

[h/t HuffPost]