Pets are such joyful and funny companions. If you were to ask any pet owner to describe their pet, they would probably compare their pet to a toddler. Pets are smart and funny and know basic communications, but boy, do they love to get into things! From a pet’s point of view, anything they can reach must mean it is available for them to enjoy, right? If you own cats, their access area can also mean tables, counters, and even anything left in the kitchen sink. So as you can imagine, owning pets can be challenging and even comical at times when we are trying to go about our daily routines.
We all enjoy having clean, welcoming, and beautiful houses. Sometimes, the household products we use can be harmful to our pets if they come across them. Let’s go over a list of six household items and products that could be harmful to your pets, and what we can do to ensure our pets are safe.
Most cleaning products used inside and outside of the house are not harmful to pets if appropriately used. Follow the directions for use on the product label, and do not allow your pet to encounter the product while you are using it. Make sure the surface is dry before allowing your pet to come back to the area. If your pet touches or ingests a cleaning product, skin or oral irritations may occur as well as vomiting, diarrhea, or respiratory distress, depending on the product.
Always read the warning labels on the product packaging and use the same judgment for pets as you would for humans. Meaning, if the product is a skin irritant to humans, the same could be valid for pets. If your pet comes in contact with a household product, read the product label for instructions on treatment, contact the animal poison helpline, or contact your veterinarian.
In the United States, there are two animal poison helplines staffed 24/7 with veterinarians available to give you advice. See the resources section at the end of this article for their contact information. If you want more information on household cleaning products safe to use around your pets, check out my article on “8 companies with Pet-Safe Household Cleaning Products”.
Some types of houseplants, flowers, trees, or shrubs
- There are some types of houseplants and outdoor flowers, trees, or shrubs that can be harmful to pets. In desert climates, some cactus and succulents may be sharp and puncture pets or cause the pet to get thorns in their fur and around delicate areas such as their face, in their mouth, or groin areas.
- There are many varieties of plants that can be irritating to the pet if ingested. The pet could experience various symptoms such as a burning mouth, excessive drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea, and severe stomach upset.
- There are also numerous indoor and outdoor plants, flowers, trees, and shrubs that could be fatal to pets if ingested. Most types of Lilies are toxic to cats. Even if kitty comes in contact with just the pollen on a lily, it can cause kidney failure. Sago Palm Trees are a trendy tree used for landscaping in the desert and warmer climates. However, if a pet chewed on a Sago Palm, it can cause vomiting, stomach upset, and even liver failure or death in dogs, cats, and horses.
If you want to find out if a plant, flower, tree, or shrub is harmful to your pet, visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Center online as they have a listing of both toxic items to your pet as well as pet-safe items to plant in your house and yard. Also, check out my article on “Beware; indoor plants, are they safe for your pet” for more information on houseplants and pet safe alternatives you can use in your home.
Food and Drinks
Several types of foods and drinks are hazardous to our pets if they happen to ingest them.
- Chocolate, coffee, and caffeine all contain a substance called methylxanthine, found in cacao seeds, which is harmful to pets. When these items are ingested by pets, they can experience vomiting, diarrhea, or even more severe symptoms such as hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythms, tremors, seizures, or even death.
- Alcoholic beverages consumed by pets can cause vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, tremors, or even put a pet into a coma. Pets are far more sensitive to alcohol than humans are.
- Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs and cats.
- Onions, garlic, and chives can cause gastrointestinal irritation in pets and could lead to red blood cell damage.
- Yeast dough can rise and cause a large amount of gas to accumulate in your pet’s digestive system, even causing a dog’s stomach to bloat and twist.
- Sugar-free foods containing an artificial sweetener called Xylitol are toxic to pets. If ingested, Xylitol can cause liver failure, lowered blood sugar, vomiting, and seizures. Xylitol can be found in many gum and candy products, as well as even baked goods and toothpaste. Xylitol can also be found in some peanut butter brands. Make sure to read food labels carefully and keep these foods out of reach of your pets.
- For more information on foods harmful to pets, check out my article on “Safe and Unsafe Human Snacks for Pets.”
Ultimately, if you know your pet has a talent for getting into things or is a good counter surfer, keep foods and gum/candies out of their reach, or restrict them from being able to get to places in your house where you store food. A common area where pets can get access to things is getting into purses or finding items that are left in vehicles.
Human Medications and Cosmetics
- Human medications such as aspirins, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, and other pain relievers can cause liver failure, kidney failure, or bleeding ulcers if given to your pets. Human heart medications, as well as antidepressants, can also be fatal to pets if ingested.
- Cosmetics, bar soaps, and face washes can cause severe gastrointestinal irritation if ingested, so make sure to keep these items out of the reach of your pets.
- Mosquito repellants can be toxic to pets. Pets can be very sensitive to DEET, a common ingredient found in mosquito repellants. DEET can cause pets to have neurological symptoms such as seizures. If your pet needs a mosquito repellant, make sure to get a pet-safe one as there are many mosquito products available to use on pets.
Pest Control Products
Rodenticides designed to kill mice and rats can be equally as harmful to cats and dogs. If your pet eats some of the rodenticides, or even eats a mouse that has ingested the rodenticide, they could get very sick. Rodenticides are usually designed to cause spontaneous bleeding when they are ingested, and this will also happen in your pet.
It can take 2-5 days for a pet to show any noticeable symptoms of rodenticide poisoning, and they will need to be treated by a veterinarian immediately to avoid excessive bleeding in the chest, stomach, and blood in their urine and feces. If left untreated, your pet could die. Some people like to keep their pets in the garage if they are not home, and this is a common area for pets to find rodenticides.
If you have your house regularly treated for roaches, spiders, scorpions, mosquitos, or other annoying pests, make sure to talk with the pest control company to ensure the products they use are safe for pets. Most products that pest control companies use are safe for pets once they have thoroughly dried. Ensure your pet has no access to the areas the company has sprayed until the product is dry, which can be 20-40 minutes after they have sprayed.
If you apply the pest control products yourself, check the product packaging to see if the products are safe to be used around pets. Follow the instructions on the package to ensure you have restricted your pets from the product for the recommended amount of time while it dries.
Using Essential Oils in Diffusers
When using essential oils for cleaning or fragrances in the home, cats can be very sensitive. If a cat comes in contact with some essential oils, it can cause gastrointestinal upset or depress the central nervous system. If the oils are ingested it could cause liver damage. Inhalation of the oils could cause signs of pneumonia. Because of the severity of the symptoms, we do not recommend using essential oils for cleaning or home fragrances around dogs or cats. Some essential oils are more toxic to pets than others, and just a few drops can cause your pet to have a severe reaction.
Use Proper Safety Measures, and Your Pets Should be OK
Ultimately, if pet owners practice safety measures around their pets, they should not have any problems using household products. If a pet owner is ever unsure if something their pet came in contact with is harmful to their pet, they should contact an animal poison control center, where there are veterinarians available 24/7 to answer questions and give advice on what to do. These poison control center hotlines can also send a report to a local veterinarian if your pet needs emergency treatment.
- ASPCA Animal Poison Control Hotline: (888) 426-4435
- Pet Poison Helpline: (855) 764-7661
- List of toxic and also pet-safe plants, flowers, trees, and shrubs: Check out the ASPCA Animal Poison Control website or the Pet Poison Helpline website.