Pet Safety and Household Cleaning Products Using Cleaning Supplies Safely in a Pet-Friendly Household

Pet Safety and Household Cleaning Products
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vet verified PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian DVM

It's easy to overlook, but many common cleaning products can threaten your pet's safety and health. Learn the dangers your pet faces and how to avoid them.

When we bring a pet into our homes we make an unspoken promise to keep that pet safe, to protect them, and to keep them healthy. All good pet parents know this and abide by it, but sometimes there are unseen hazards that can be a threat to our beloved pets. Even the most diligent pet parent can be caught by surprise by a curious puppy who gnaws open a bottle of window cleaner, or a kitty who takes a drink out of the bowl of bleach you were using to clean the tub. The important thing for pet safety is to be aware of the dangers and to make your home a safe environment for the pet you love.

Fish and Small Rodents

Animals of all types are susceptible to cleaning products. These products contain chemicals and can be highly toxic, even life-threatening. Often times we want to give our little critters a clean cage, so we carefully empty it, scrub it, rinse it, and then return our fish, hamster, or whoever else to their home. However, sometimes the smallest creatures can be the most severely affected by things like soap or disinfectants. When cleaning a fish tank, the slightest trace of soap can kill off any type of fish. Small rodents have a tendency to chew and can ingest trace amounts of cleaners that you thought you had rinsed away. The best bet is to avoid using any type of cleaning product on cages and tanks, if possible. But if it is necessary to use soap or other disinfectants, rinse and rinse, and then rinse some more. And when you think you've rinsed it enough, rinse it one more time.

Risk to Larger Animals

Larger animals can be harmed by these chemicals as well. Never underestimate your dog or cat; just because they haven't gotten into any chemicals before doesn't mean they never will. The best thing you can do to keep them out of harm's way is to keep cleaning products far out of reach of your dog or cat. Never leave a bottle sitting around, or leave a closet or cabinet door opened where these things are stored. If you're cleaning with chemicals on the floor, another low surface, or in a bowl, it's best to keep your pet out of that room until you are finished and all the chemicals have been wiped up. Don't trust your pet not to lick the chemicals, because they often will out of curiosity. Many pet owners have had unfortunate mishaps of their puppy lapping up motor oil in the garage or chewing open a plastic bottle of cleaner. Animals are inherently curious, and they will check out anything that's within reach.

Safe Cleaning Practices

When spraying chemicals, it's extremely important to pick up any pet products first. Pick up your pet's water and food dish and set them aside, far from where the chemicals are being used, in case some of the chemical splashes or spills. Don't forget to pick up toys also.

There is an alternative to dangerous chemicals. Luckily, with the "green" movement that is so popular today, there are many household cleaners on the market that are eco-friendly and lack harsh, dangerous chemicals. These cleaners still do the job you need them to do, but they are non-toxic to children and pets. It's still not a good idea to allow your pet any kind of access to them, but at least if an unfortunate incident occurs, it won't pose such a threat to their health. And an additional upside, of course, is that these products are also safe for the environment. 

What to Do if Your Pet Does Get into Toxic Cleaning Chemicals 

In the event that your pet does gain access to a cleaning product, first, call animal poison control. If possible, have the bottle or cleaning product label in hand. Then, it's important for your pet to see a vet immediately, especially if they are vomiting, not eating, or otherwise acting strangely. Often times a quick-acting owner who gets their pet to a vet quickly can make all the difference and prevent a serious crisis.

We love our pets, and we want to keep them safe. We put fences up to keep them out of the road, get them vaccinated to fend off diseases, and feed them a healthy diet to maintain their weight. But it's also important to remember that there are hazards in our own homes that cannot be overlooked.

Easy, Green, Dog-Safe Cleaning Tips 

Keeping Your Dog and Home Clean.

Even though dogs are our lovable best friends, they come with lots of fur and wet kisses that seem to get on everything. Here are some great tips on keeping your house clean and your dog safe without harsh toxic chemicals.

Pet dogs that live with us in our homes make a mark on our hearts...and their environment. They’re very generous with their fur and kisses, and leave drifts of hair and sometimes slobber on their own toys and your belongings. Puppies that don’t know any better, and ill dogs that can’t help themselves, may suffer from hit or miss bathroom issues, too.

Keeping your house clean can be a challenge when living with a dog. In most cases, you and your children aren’t at risk for catching illnesses from a healthy pet. But just like kids, dogs are sensitive to toxic chemicals often found in everyday cleaning products. Dogs won't grow out of the urge to sniff and lick weird smells and liquids and easily get poisoned. Be sure you "clean green" with products clearly labeled as safe for use around your pets. That's good for the earth, too.

Even when they're clean, the canine aroma may prove too much for visitors to stomach, and the “yuck” factor can still be off-putting to most people. Your dog’s sense of smell is much more sensitive than people’s and natural cleaners can be less offensive to them. Healthy cleaning choices benefit you, the earth and your dog. Consider these 5 green cleaning tips.

Wash bowls

Choose ceramic, glass or metal bowls. Plastic bowls tend to hold odors more readily, and won't decompose in landfills so glass and ceramic are much more earth-friendly, especially if you use them for a long time. Wash out the food and water bowls on a regular basis and dump out standing water. Dishwasher safe bowls work well, or hand-wash your dog's bowls with dog-safe cleansers. Have several so you can switch out clean ones while used bowls are being cleaned.

Wipe toys

Soft toys get smelly because dogs carry them around in their mouths. Puzzle toys work great to keep dogs occupied by stuffing them with food, but get nasty with spoiled treats and slobber. Dog toys benefit from being de-slobbered with pet-safe wipes, washed in the dishwasher, or run through the washing machine. Earth-friendly wipes won't clog up landfills, either. Be sure to check labels before tossing your dog’s favorite stuffed bear in with your laundry.

Clean bedding

A dog’s bed quickly takes on its signature odor. Bed covers that can be removed and laundered are ideal. If that’s not possible, an earth-safe odor neutralizer removes the smell. Be sure the bedding is dry before letting your dog use it again. You can protect dog cushions from the worst stains by removing the cover, putting the cushion inside a plastic garbage bag, and then replacing the outside cover. That way, odor or stains only penetrate the outside portion that’s most easily cleaned with sprays or the laundry. Maintaining a quality product is greener than not taking care of it and just buying new.

Mop Floors

Spot stains can be cleaned up with a pet-safe odor neutralizer. You can also find great products that clean hard floor surfaces and remove the smell of pet waste. It’s important to use pet-safe, green products because some cleaning chemicals can burn paw pads or cause toxic reactions, and can even end up in the groundwater and affect the earth. Be sure to keep your dog off cleaned floors until any products used have completely dried.

Vacuum Carpets

Pet stains can be a challenge to remove from carpets because the odor soaks through to the backing. For simple dirt, wait until muddy paw prints dry, scrub with a dry brush, perhaps add a natural deodorizer like earth-friendly baking soda, and vacuum. But for wet organic stains from urine or feces, use a pet stain remover that includes an odor neutralizer and follow product directions. The chemicals that make perfumed cleaners smell good aren't earth-friendly. Even if it smells okay to you because your dog still smells the waste, that encourages them to re-baptize the spot.

Easy, Green, Cat-Safe Cleaning Tips 

Keeping Your Cat and House Clean

It's a known fact amongst cat owners that felines cherish cleanliness just as much as we do. Here are some helpful easy tips on keeping your house clean and your cat safe all at the same time

Cats are fastidious pets that cherish cleanliness nearly as much as their owners. But your cat’s sense of “clean” may not match yours when they're shedding generous fur or “lurking” hairballs onto the carpet. Cats sometimes get peeved about their litter box and decide to mark their territory with claws or (gasp!) urine. Cats also seem eager and willing to stain the carpet when their breakfast comes back up.

Keeping your house "green" and smelling clean can be a challenge even when your cat remains faithful to their litter box. Your cats, though, are highly sensitive to harsh chemicals found in everyday cleaning products. So is the earth. Cats can become poisoned by licking their feet after walking across the mopped floor. Just because it's labeled "natural" doesn't always mean it's safe, either--after all, poison mushrooms are natural.

Be sure you "clean green" with earth-friendly products clearly labeled as safe for use around cats. Even dog-safe products could put cats at risk, so only trust products that are labeled specifically for cats. Refer to these 5 green cleaning tips:

Wash food bowls

Choose ceramic or glass bowls, which are greener than plastic. Plastic bowls also hold odors more readily which can be off-putting to cats. Plastic bowls sometimes can cause feline acne on the cat’s chin. Dishwasher-safe bowls work well. You also can hand-wash with earth-friendly cleansers.

Try a biodegradable litter pan

Most conventional litter boxes made from plastic need a good weekly scrubbing, even when owners scoop religiously. Disposable litter pans make things easier, but a better green alternative is biodegradable disposable cat litter pans. Some of these products can be composted, and already contain activated charcoal for odor control. If you want a convenient option that is still environmentally conscious, consider biodegradable litter pans.

Clean bedding

A cat’s bed soon acquires its personal smell. Unless the bed gets dingy, from a hairball mishap, for instance, avoid washing the bed, which removes this scent, because that can upset your cat and they will stop using the bed. Instead, remove excess collected fur with a pet hair collector product. Rather than throwing cat fur away, recycle by giving back to the earth and the birds will love to use shed fur as nest lining.

Spotlight to wash walls

Cats may mark territory with sprayed urine, but once it dries you have trouble finding the stain to clean it. Urine glows under a black light, though. Turn off the lights and shine the black light on suspected walls, carpet, or other locations to find urine and then clean with an earth-friendly odor neutralizer. Unless the stain is removed, the smell tempts the cat to return to the scene and potty on top of the spot.

Vacuum carpets

Green vacuums collect debris in a canister that can be recycled in the garden, instead of bags that get thrown out and collect in landfills. Carpet stains that soak into carpets are difficult to eliminate, though, especially from urine, feces, or vomit. These need an earth-friendly stain remover that incorporates a green odor neutralizer. You’ll need to follow product directions and sometimes soak the stain thoroughly so the product reaches deep into the carpet padding. Other products work as powders and can be vacuumed up along with the stain. Don’t be fooled by perfumed cleaners made from chemicals that can damage the earth. They smell good to you but won’t fool your cat. 

Amy Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant, consultant to the pet care industry, and award-winning author of 23 pet care books.

More on Pet Care

Easy, Green Cat-Safe Cleaning Tips
Easy, Green Dog-Safe Cleaning Tips
Cat Proof Your Breakables

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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