Cleaning agents have a variety of properties. If ingested by your pet, some may cause mild stomach upset, while others could cause severe burns of the tongue, mouth, and stomach. But according to Steven Hansen, DVM, director of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) in Champaign-Urbana, Ill., as long as you use and store all-purpose cleaners properly, there is little need for worry.
The APCC managed 150,000 pet poisoning cases in 2008. Though “domestic substances” do cause injury and occasionally death, Hansen says that most animal poison emergencies occur because pets eat medications intended for people, not cleaning supplies.
“Illness from cleaners is not uncommon, but death is rare,” Hansen says.
According to Hansen, owners shouldn’t worry that their pets will become seriously ill from doing things like licking a wet, freshly-mopped floor. Household detergents, properly diluted, tend to be safe for pets.
To keep your pet safe, store household cleaners, detergents, furniture polishes, and bleaches in closed cabinets above counter level, out of reach of curious animals. Take special care with products promoted as disinfectants or germ killers, and be sure to keep them where pets cannot sniff, lick, or eat them — including when you are using, storing or disposing of them.
If your pet tends to explore cabinets and storage areas, take extra precautions, and avoid cleaning supplies that contain dangerous substances. For example, Hansen doesn’t allow drain cleaner, among the most dangerous substances, in his house because his nine-year-old dog has been known to get into things.
Finally, when cleaning your house, never allow your pet access to the area where cleaning agents are used or stored. Protect neighborhood pets, as well as your own, by thoroughly rinsing containers and putting them in securely closed receptacles for trash or recycling.
What to Do If You Think Your Pet Is Poisoned
If you suspect your pet is suffering from ingesting (sniffing, licking, or eating) cleaning products, call the APCC, your veterinarian, or the local emergency veterinary clinic right away! Have the cleaning product handy, and be prepared to give:
- The name of the cleaning product
- Its purpose (for example: detergent, disinfectant, drain cleaner)
- Main and/or active ingredients
- How much your pet ingested
- When your pet ingested it
- Your pet’s weight
- What physical signs are you are seeing (vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, etc.)
If you need to take your pet to the veterinarian or emergency room, be sure to take the container of cleaning product with you!
Are Natural Products Safer?
It’s easy to assume that homemade, natural, or organic cleansers are safer than other cleaning supplies, but the jury is still out.
Hansen says there is no evidence that homemade solutions or green products are any safer for pets than traditional products. “It is not that I am ‘anti-natural,’” he says. “I am just trying to be realistic.”
If you prefer natural products, be careful of the concentrations used. In high doses, even the common vinegar-and-baking-soda combination can be toxic to pets, Hansen says.
Also, like traditional cleansers, natural products may contain ingredients that can irritate or sicken pets. For example, aromatherapy oils, which are used in many green cleaning products, may be too harsh for the sensitive olfactory systems of animals, says Susan Wynn, DVM, of Bells Ferry Veterinary Hospital, an AAHA-accredited practice in Acworth, Ga.
“Tea tree oil has killed cats,” she says. And aromatherapy oils, just like industrial chemicals, are hazardous in high concentrations.
The Effects of Long-Term Exposure
|Ask Your Veterinarian
||Are there any cleaning supplies or ingredients I should avoid?
||Can you recommend any pet-friendly cleaning supplies?
||I see these symptoms … Could my pet be allergic to my cleaning supplies?
||Can you recommend special gadgets for locking the cupboards?
Though Hansen isn’t overly concerned about limited, day-to-day exposure to cleansers, the effects of long-term chemical exposure are unknown.
“Long-term exposure is a wide-open question,” Hansen says. “We have to rely on knowledge of how different chemicals affect cells.”
For example, canine nasal tumors may be connected to dogs’ tendency to explore their world with their noses. It hasn’t been established whether carpet fresheners and pesticides might contribute to such tumors.
Using caution and knowing your pet’s personal capacity for mischief may be the best ways to stay safe, Hansen suggests.
This article originally appeared in PetsMatter April 16 - Volume 4 Issue 2, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. Copyright © 2009 AAHA. Find out more.