Watch out for pet hazards when spring cleaning


Depending on the ingredients in the clean agents, they can be a real hazard to your pet if they lick, inhale or ingest them or, in some cases, if they come in contact with their skin or their eyes. Photo: TNS/Dreamstime

The annual ritual of spring cleaning is inevitable. Unfortunately, many common cleaning products can be dangerous or even deadly to our pets. According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, exposure to household cleaning products and paint make up 8.3% of all pet poison calls to the APCC.

Depending on the ingredients in these cleaners, they can be a real hazard to your pet if they lick, inhale or ingest them or, in some cases, if they come in contact with their skin or their eyes. Labels on cleaning products may be difficult to read or interpret.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) offers the following information about spring cleaning products that may be harmful to your pets and what to do if you suspect your pet has been exposed to them.Know what you are using. Because there are many cleaning products on the market with different ingredients, all with varying degrees of safety, be sure to read the directions on the label prior to usage and for dilution instructions when needed. After cleaning, dispose of unused or dirty solutions, and clean and put away cleaning tools such as mops or rags so that pets cannot get to them.

Carpet cleaners. With carpet cleansers or fresheners, thoroughly vacuum the powder from the carpet or rug before allowing the pets back in the area. This should prevent contact irritation of the product to the pet’s skin and reduce the risk of inhaling the powder. With carpet shampoo, allow the carpet to dry before allowing pets back into the area.

Fabric softeners. Fabric softener sheets contain cationic detergents that have the potential to cause significant signs of irritation such as drooling, vomitting, oral and oesophageal ulcers, and fever. These signs occur when a pet chews on a new or unused dryer sheet. Used dryer sheets have minimal amounts of detergent still present; however, if an animal ingests enough sheets, even used, an intestinal blockage can occur.

Essential oils. Essential oils can cause significant problems in all pets but especially in cats. This can include irritation to the skin or tongue when in direct contact or gastrointestinal effects, neurologic signs and even aspiration pneumonia when ingested. Because there are variations in the toxicity of certain oils and in their concentration, it is not recommended to use in homes with pets without strict directions from a veterinarian.

Vinegar and water. Vinegar and water dilutions are often used as an inexpensive alternative to commercial cleaning agents, but vinegar in its pure form is typically acidic and can still act as an irritant. Ingesting concentrated or undiluted vinegar can cause vomitting, diarrhoea, oral irritation and pain.

Be aware. These different substances found in cleaning products are hazardous: Ammonia, bleach and chlorine, formaldehyde, phenol and isopropyl alcohol. The bottom line is that most cleaning agents can be safely used in the home if you read and follow label recommendations, and allow the ingredients to fully dry and evaporate before exposing pets back into the environment.

Clinical signs: The following are common clinical signs of possible toxicity in your pet:

When licked or ingested: Drooling or excessive salivation, sometimes with fetid smell, vomitting, not eating, lethargy, hunched body posture indicating abdominal pain, wobbliness or disorientation, seizures/convulsions, and coma.

When inhaled: Sneezing, coughing or gagging, difficulty breathing or open mouth breathing (especially in cats), teary or reddened eyes, and bluish coloured gums.

When in contact with the skin: Redness and irritation, scratching or biting the affected area, and blisters or sores.

What to do if your pet is exposed to a cleaning product: Time is of the essence in these instances! Toxicity in pets varies greatly from mild to life-threatening depending on the substance, the route of exposure, the amount ingested and the size of the pet. Try to determine how your pet was exposed, which product was involved and how much of the product it was exposed to or ingested.

If you question whether a product is toxic to your pets or if you suspect that your pet has been exposed to any poisonous substances, take a photo of the product and packaging and contact your veterinarian or nearest veterinary emergency hospital. – Tribune News Service/American Kennel Club/Dr Jerry Klein

Dr Jerry Klein is Chief Veterinarian at AKC. For more information about responsible dog ownership, visit

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