Pet Friendly Spring Cleaning

Trojan and Gitli near the fireplaceAs I am contemplating the words to use in informing pet owners about toxins effecting cats and dogs, I am thinking of my golden retriever, Gig.  In 2000 he came through is initial pet checkup with no problems.  A week later he stopped breathing and my CPR training.  I took him to Vet ER Clinic and they diagnosed him with lung cancer.  It was an advanced cancer, which means it was there when the primary vet did his yearly exam.  Gig only had a few more weeks to live and to be humane I put him to sleep after coming home from work. If I had known then what I know now, I would have done whatever I could to force stopping the toxins to maintain the yard.

There is a lot of substances that we use in our yards from compost pile to fertilizers, and other various poisons we use that can cause serious problem if ingested, breathed in, and even absorbed by our pets.  I found out years later that the use of frequent fertilizers can cause lung cancer because they breath in that substance.

Even the frequent use of spraying in a house or around a house for bugs can be deadly to pets.  A family member started having bug problems after a flood so she paid for bug spraying to get control of them.  A few months later the bugs came back and she paid for spraying again.  A few months the bugs came back and she found out that it was the whole block being invaded.  She was forced to have her home sprayed for a third time within a few months.  All spraying was done by the same company.  The company told her to wait two hours before bringing the pets back in, she waited three hours and cleaned only the flooring that the dogs would be on.  Within a few days of being back into the house, they all had respiratory problems.  About a week ago she took one of them back because it was having problems and the vet told her that the liver was responding to poison, it shortly died.

As spring approaches humans associate it with making a fresh start and we engage in the spring cleaning rituals to clear out the old and make room for the new.  It is extremely important in understanding the potential toxic effects household cleaning products may have on our pets.

DSCN0006When cleaning crates, carriers, dog bowls, and toys the use of warm soapy water with dish washing detergent can help.  Dawn seems to be a popular and common product.  Does your client know that the use of bleach can cause breathing problems and skin burns on cats and dogs.  When pure bleach comes into contact with cat urine, it sets off a chemical reaction.  Cat urine contains high levels of ammonia.  The ammonia reacts with the chemical compounds of bleach and forms a gas call choloramine.  This can irritate your eyes, including the mucus membrane of your mouth and nose.  Inhaling these fumes is dangerous as it can cause one to lose consciousness and long term exposure can lead to death.  Best to dilute the bleach or find another non-toxic product to use.

When it comes to laundering bedding, covers, pets’ winter clothes, and dog toys it’s good to have additional bed coverings while the others are being cleaned.  The use of regular unscented detergent in small quantities is best.  If bleach is used to clean the laundry allow the bedding to air out a bit before giving it back to the pet.

I Recommend avoiding cleaning products’ labeled with:

  • Phenols (typically found in cleaners with the word “sol” in the name)
  • Phthalates
  • Formaldehyde (found in general household cleaners)
  • Bleach
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Perchloroethylene (found in rug and carpet shampoos)

Whether it is a single or a repeat exposure, this exposure might short and long term negative effects on the pet’s health.  Symptoms that pets have been exposed are:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Nasal and ocular (eye) discharge
  • Ptyalism (salivation)
  • Emesis (vomiting)
  • Diarrhea
  • Anorexia (decreased appetite)
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures
  • Death

The Pet Poison Helpline has a lot of good information.  I am read a nice article on Things In Your Yard That Are Poisonous To Dogs And Cats.

More studies are confirming that pets have a higher health risk than people from the negative effects of chemicals and fragrances being used in homes. Non-toxic and fragrance free cleaners are becoming more available so pet parents have safer alternatives to traditional products.  Do your  research and learn about products before exposing their pets to possible toxins in their homes and yards.

Our cats, dogs, and other companion animals live in a shared environment  and are exposed to the same toxic substances in our homes and yards. As well pets groom themselves using their mouths, which means residues from cleaning products and other environmental toxins end up in their skin, coat, eyes, nose, lungs, throat, stomach, and so forth.  Always keep cleaning supplies out of reach of pets.

Joyce Rheal is based in Southern Illinois and is a nationally certified pet care consultant, trainer, and the author of Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies and Disasters and Disaster Plans: Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies and Disasters.

I am not trained medical professional and I do not give medical advice so if your pet is sick please take them to a trained medical professional.