3 types of household cleaners that are dangerous to pets

Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Mar 25 2016
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When you’ve got pets, you might find yourself worrying about the cleaning products you use in the house and whether they’re safe to use around your four-legged friends. The short answer is that most cleaners you use for run-of-the-mill house cleaning can be used safely around pets.

Though they may contain potentially hazardous chemicals, generally they’re diluted down so much that they pose little threat when used as directed on the label. However, they may cause mild signs if ingested or if your pet comes into contact with them. Always let freshly sprayed or mopped areas dry before allowing your pet back onto or around cleaned surfaces.

Now, you’ll notice that I said most cleaners can be used safely. Of course, there are some that require your full attention:

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  • Alkaline substances. These cleaners carry the potential to cause tissue irritation that ranges from mild irritation to severe burns. This can occur on the skin, eyes, mouth and even throughout the digestive tract if ingestion occurs. Common alkalis include bleach, oven cleaner, lye and drain cleaners.
  • Acidic substances. Just as you’d suspect, acidic cleaners will cause irritation to anything it comes into contact with. Acids generally have a bitter taste and cause immediate pain, unlike alkaline substances, which are more likely to be ingested because they have no overt taste at all and do not cause immediate discomfort.
  • Dishwasher and washing machine detergent pods. These are a relatively new hazard to pets, as they are a relatively new product. Detergent pods, if ingested, are life-threatening. The soap causes vomiting, and because soap also causes bubbles, the vomit is easily aspirated (or inhaled) causing severe respiratory signs that can quickly lead to death.

Signs that your pet may have gotten a little too excited about your cleaning spree and tried to “help” you out include:

  • Vomiting/diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Trouble breathing
  • Pawing at his face or mouth
  • Watery eyes
  • Drooling

If you think your pet may have been exposed to a hazardous chemical, call your veterinarian right away. If it’s after hours, you can call the Animal Poison Control Center 24 hours a day at 855-764-7661.

Keep in mind that just because a cleaning product is labeled as “natural” doesn’t make it safe—even vinegar can cause clinical signs at full strength. Always use cleaning products according to label instructions and store them safely away from paw’s reach when not in use.

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