Pets and Household Cleaners
Just like small children, pets are much closer to the ground where you are more likely to apply harmful chemical cleaning products. Just like human beings, animals are at risk for inhaling the vapors of these products, or absorbing them through their skin.
Levels of brominated flame retardants in cats are up to 23 times higher than those found in human beings, and dogs have on average 2.4 times more perfluorinated chemicals in their bodies than people.1 These are chemicals that are already found in products you buy, such as fire-proof fabrics and stain-proof rugs—just imagine how susceptible your dog or cat is to the chemicals you readily spray and pour in your home.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) listed household cleaners as one of the top ten pet poisons in 2009.2 Pets sleep on the carpet you scrub with stain removers, and they can lick their paws after walking on a surface you’ve coated with disinfectant. Though most pet owners are aware of the dangers of allowing their dogs or cats to have access to toxic household products, they are probably not thinking of the products that are used all over the house and leave a residue for days. This kind of toxic exposure is hard to prevent. Many common chemicals can irritate animals’ respiratory tracts and cause serious gastrointestinal distress.3
Cats are especially sensitive to phenol, a common disinfectant and wood treatment. They have no way to eliminate the chemical from their body after they ingest it.4 If you’re using any kind of phenol-containing products in your home, you are exposing your pet to harmful vapors on a daily basis.
Instead of harsh chemical cleaners, use natural alternatives. Some can be found here. Much of the information on this website for reducing toxicity in your home will also reduce your pet’s exposure.
If you suspect your pet has consumed a large quantity of any chemical (more than would be left on surfaces for normal cleaning), call your veterinarian immediately.
1 Elizabeth Weise, “High chemical levels found in dogs and cats,” USA Today, April 14, 2008, http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-04-16-pets-chemicals_N.htm (accessed December 6, 2010).
2 “Top 10 Pet Poisons of 2009,” ASPCA, http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/top-10-pet-poisons-of-the-year.aspx (accessed December 6, 2010).
4 Feline Advisory Bureau, “Poisons—hidden dangers,” Fab Cats, http://www.fabcats.org/owners/poisons/article.html (accessed December 6, 2010).