Have you started your spring cleaning yet? Certain cleaning, fragrance, and pest products can be dangerous for your pets. Read on to learn which products can be harmful, the signs your exposed pet may show, and what to do if you suspect your pet is in trouble. 

Pay attention to household cleaners around pets

Cleaning products with strong chemicals used for tough cleaning jobs, such as cleaning the toilet bowl or oven, removing stains from carpets, sterilizing (i.e., bleaching) surfaces, unblocking drains, and removing calcium or lime, are dangerous to pets. Exposure to, or ingestion of, these products can seriously injure your pet’s skin, eyes, mouth, stomach, or lungs and result in a life-threatening situation. Prevent accidents by:

  • Storing strong cleaners in a locked cabinet, or safely outside your home, to ensure pets are not accidentally exposed 
  • Thoroughly rinsing clean surfaces with diluted solutions, as directed, and capping and storing cleaners immediately after use
  • Applying a sticky note or other visual cue to dangerous cleaning products to remind you to use caution 
  • Keeping dogs and cats, who walk around “barefoot” on floors and other surfaces, off newly cleaned surfaces, because their foot pads and toes can become irritated, and unintentional ingestion when grooming can result 

Surface and glass cleaners are generally less toxic to pets, but ingestion may cause vomiting or diarrhea. To ensure optimum safety, use biodegradable, pet-friendly cleaning products.

Beware: Household scents and essential oils can be toxic to pets

Do you want your house to smell fresh and clean? What you use to create that effect matters, because essential oils and other fragrance-producing products are potentially harmful to pets, who have an extremely sensitive sense of smell. When inhaled, aromatic scents can cause significant irritation and distress. 

Cats are particularly sensitive to strong odors and may experience a burning sensation in the nasal passages, leading to watery nose and eyes, nausea, vomiting, and respiratory distress. Some essential oils and aromatic scents can significantly irritate a pet’s skin, and can cause ulceration, drooling, body shakes (i.e., tremors), uncoordinated walking (i.e., ataxia), difficulty or rapid breathing, and liver failure, if licked off by your pet. The most common offending oils and scents include oil of wintergreen, oil of sweet birch, and citrus, pine, peppermint, cinnamon, pennyroyal, clove, eucalyptus, and tea tree oils. Never use these fragrances on or around cats. 

Dogs, although less sensitive than cats, can also experience toxicity secondary to household fragrances and essential-oil exposure. The most commonly seen toxicities in dogs include tea tree, pennyroyal, and pine oils, and oil of wintergreen. In pet products, these oils are generally not harmful, because of their low concentration, but concentrated essential oils in home products can be toxic to pets.

Keep pest poisons away from pets

Many people use pest preventives to keep fleas, rodents, and insects out of their home. These products, when used incorrectly or ingested, can result in toxicity in dogs and cats. 

Fleas seldom survive in cold temperatures for long periods, but they become active every spring. The best way to prevent fleas on your pets and in your home is a religious devotion to monthly flea preventives. Toxicity becomes a problem when over-the-counter flea products are used inappropriately, or when dog preventives are given to cats. If these products are used or dosed incorrectly, or given to the wrong species, signs include tremors, uncoordinated walking, drooling, and sometimes death. 

Rodenticides, depending on the type used, kill rodents by causing internal bleeding, brain swelling, or significant organ damage, and can be life-threatening to a pet who is exposed to the poison, or who consumes a critter that may have been exposed. Therefore:

  • Keep any rodenticides locked away from pets. 
  • Use alternative pest-control methods that do not cause harm to pets. 
  • Immediately remove any dead rodents so pets cannot eat them. 
  • Attach a bell or other wildlife protection device to your outdoor cat to help ensure unsuccessful critter hunting, especially if you use rodenticides. 

Insecticide products can also harm our pets. For example, insecticide pellets can be toxic if eaten in large quantities, and can cause neurologic signs similar to flea preventives, although pets are generally only mildly affected. 

Here at Plumtrees Animal Hospital, we are as excited about spring as you are, but as you prepare for spring cleaning, we want to ensure you have all the information you need to keep your pets safe, including:

  • Be mindful of where you keep items that are toxic to pets.
  • While cleaning one area of your home, keep pets confined in another area with food, water, and treats to keep them happy.
  • Always keep an eye on your pets when using potentially harmful products.

If your pet ever acts abnormally, or exhibits any of the clinical signs of poison exposure or ingestion, give us a call. The Pet Poison Helpline and the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center also are available 24 hours per day, seven days per week.