Pet Owners Should Rethink Using These Popular Cleaning Products Around The House

Many pet owners go to great lengths to provide a safe and loving environment for their favorite companions, but there's one aspect often overlooked — the cleaning products used in the home. From disinfectants and floor cleaners laden with toxic chemicals to air fresheners that release fumes, you need to know about the potential harm these products can inflict on your pets.

You can keep your companions safe from skin irritations, respiratory distress, or even more severe consequences by simply checking the ingredients on the back of popular cleaning products. The average emergency vet visit is typically between $3,000 and $5,000. Even with some sort of pet insurance to offset the costs, it's still a hefty bill. Luckily, pet poisoning by household cleaners is totally avoidable. Responsible pet owners know which cleaners are okay to use, as long as Fido isn't around, and which to never bring into the home in the first place. Here is how to tell the difference. 

Bleach can be bad for furry friends

Nothing gets things clean around the house quite like bleach. It's in everything, too, from bathroom cleaners to laundry powder. Unfortunately for pet owners, bleach also contains strong chemicals that can hurt pets, like hydrogen peroxide. Its intense odor can also irritate animal's sensitive respiratory systems. This leads to coughing, sneezing, and labored breathing. Prolonged exposure to these fumes can sometimes result in more severe respiratory problems, too. This is especially common in animals with preexisting conditions, like brachycephalic breeds (dogs with flat faces) or even cats with asthma.

Ingestion of bleach is another significant risk. Pets might be curious and attempt to lick freshly cleaned surfaces or drink water contaminated with residue. Ingesting even a small amount can lead to severe gastrointestinal distress, like vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. In more severe cases, it can cause corrosive damage to the mouth, esophagus, and stomach lining, potentially leading to life-threatening complications. To avoid this, if you clean with bleach, be sure the area is well-ventilated and your pet is kept away until things are well dry. You can also dilute how much you use so the residue is not as strong.

Ammonia-based cleaners are a risky choice

Ammonia shows up in a lot of popular home products, like toilet disinfectants, furniture polish, and oven cleaners. It's great at getting the job done, but it can harm your pets. One of the primary concerns with ammonia-based cleaners is inhalation. Pets, particularly dogs and cats, have a much more sensitive sense of smell than humans. The fumes are strong to the human nose but can be even more overwhelming to pets. Breathing it in can irritate their respiratory tracts, leading to coughing fits, lots of sneezing, and difficulty breathing. Prolonged exposure can result in more serious respiratory problems over time, just like it might in humans.

Ingestion is another potential danger. Pets might be interested in the smell and may lick surfaces cleaned with ammonia-based products. Residues picked up on paws when your pet walks across a cleaned surface can also be ingested during self-grooming. Taking in even small amounts can lead to stomach problems for your pet, like nausea, vomiting, and loose bowels. In severe cases, it can cause corrosive damage to the mouth, throat, and stomach lining. While it's common to use ammonia to clean the home, be sure to keep your pets well clear of it.

Insecticides can be a toxic hazard

These chemicals are designed to be toxic to pests and can be equally harmful to pets. If you are trying to clean up your house and get rid of unwanted insects, think twice before exposing your four-legged friends to them. This would be things like garden pesticides, flea and tick treatments, and household insect sprays. While some treatments are specially designed to work on ridding your pets of unwanted insects, the household versions can greatly harm them.

Ingesting insecticides is the biggest risk to animals. House pets may lick or ingest treated plants, pesticide residues on surfaces, or even flea and tick treatments that have been misapplied. Be mindful of environmental exposure as well, as outdoor pesticides can be tracked indoors on your pet's paws. Some pesticides may contain ingredients like synthetic pyrethroid that are especially toxic to cats, so it's crucial to use caution and consult your veterinarian before applying any product to your pet or in your home.

Rodenticides pose potential dangers

Rodenticides are substances used to control rodents. They are designed to be highly effective at what they do. You might use them in pellet, bait, or block form to get rid of rats around your house. However, ingesting rodenticides is one of the most significant dangers for pets. Most brands are formulated with powerful toxins that can cause severe and even life-threatening poisoning in all animals, not just rodents.

When pets consume rodenticides, they can start by making the pet lose its appetite, vomit, and have diarrhea. This might be followed by seizures and bleeding disorders. The latter can be particularly alarming, as some rodenticides work by interfering with blood clotting mechanisms, leading to internal bleeding that may not be immediately obvious. To protect your pets, it's crucial to use rodent control methods that are pet-safe, like traps placed in areas inaccessible to your furry companions. Always store rodenticides securely out of their reach, and be cautious if you have outdoor rodent control stations to stop them from getting into the house. Pets may be tempted to investigate them, so they are high risk.

Air fresheners can be an error

As nice as they make the house smell, some air fresheners and plug-ins can be harmful to pets. These products release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and synthetic fragrances into the air, like ethanol (alcohol) and acetone. These chemicals can be overwhelming to pets, as they have a heightened sense of smell. Repeated exposure may lead to respiratory irritation for your pet. In addition to this, we tend to keep air fresheners and plug-ins low down, right at pet height — giving them a potential face full. This can cause symptoms like coughing, sneezing, or even nasal discharge in sensitive animals. Some plug-in air fresheners contain liquid or gel substances that can be appealing to pets and can harm them if eaten.

To keep your pets safe, increase ventilation in your home by keeping doors and windows open. You can also avoid placing air fresheners or plug-ins in areas where your pets spend a lot of time, like near their kennel or food bowls. Or, opt for more pet-friendly alternatives like animal-safe natural diffusers.

Certain essential oils can be detrimental

Essential oils can be a great alternative to harsher chemicals when you are trying to keep things clean around the house. Unfortunately, there are certain oils that pet owners should avoid, as they can cause great harm to animals. Pets may accidentally ingest essential oils by licking surfaces cleaned with oil-based products or by grooming themselves after coming into contact with these substances.

The main offenders are tea tree oil and eucalyptus oil. The danger lies in their high concentrations of compounds called terpenes, specifically cineole in eucalyptus and terpineol in tea tree oil. When ingested or even absorbed through the skin, these oils can disrupt a pet's central nervous system, leading to scary symptoms like drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and even seizures. The liver can also be affected, as it struggles to metabolize these oils. In extreme cases, it could fail altogether. Cats, in particular, are highly sensitive to these substances. To ensure your pet's safety, keep these oils out of their reach and consult a veterinarian if exposure occurs.

Laundry detergents could spell danger

Some laundry detergents can be a real headache for our pets if we're not careful. Some popular brands have chemicals in them that can mess with their skin and stomachs. Puppies and kittens are at the highest risk of harm from laundry detergent. They may be inclined to chew on laundry soap boxes or ingest detergent spills, especially if left alone in the laundry room as new additions to the family sometimes are.

Even minimal consumption of laundry detergent can trigger horrible symptoms, like excessive salivation, emesis, and diarrhea. Sometimes this can develop into a condition called aspiration pneumonitis, which is often fatal. To keep your pet safe, be sure to use pet-friendly detergent when washing their blankets, beds, and towels, to not irritate their skin. In addition, keep all human-friendly stored well out of reach so they can't knock it down and eat something they should not.

Mothballs can cause big issues

Mothballs are small, often spherical pesticide products used to deter moths from damaging clothing and fabrics. While they do a great job at what they're made for, they also typically contain chemicals like naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, which can be highly toxic to pets if ingested or even inhaled. They are especially tricky as some dogs and cats may be drawn to the scent of mothballs and might mistake them for toys or treats. If eaten, mothballs can release toxic fumes into the stomach, causing things like excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain — none of which are great for a pet. In severe cases, mothball ingestion can result in organ damage, particularly to the liver.

Inhalation of mothball fumes is another risk, particularly in the confined spaces where mothballs are typically stored. Pets exposed to these fumes may experience respiratory irritation, coughing, and difficulty breathing. While it's handy to use mothballs to keep bugs out of your home and keep everything cleaner, keeping pets away from them is essential to avoiding emergency vet visits.

Cleaning wipes can be an irritant

Some cleaning wipes contain chemicals that, if licked or ingested, can cause gastrointestinal upset and other health problems. This includes popular brands like Clorox, Lysol, Dettol, and their store-brand counterparts. If you are wiping down counters or cleaning up a spill on the floor, make sure the area is well-dried before your animal has access to it again. Dogs and cats are also known for taking pleasure in ripping up paper products, so be sure the container is well-sealed before leaving it unattended. 

In addition, never use the wipes you would use on the floor to clean an animal. Instead, reach for specially formulated pet wipes, but even then, you need to be careful. "It's not okay to use pet wipes that contain alcohol, antiseptics, sulfates, parabens, and other strong chemicals that are harmful to pets," veterinarian Dr. Gaffud told Rover. Many wipes are way too acidic for a pet's skin and can really harm them.

Formaldehyde can cause irritation

Most people probably know formaldehyde as an embalming liquid, but it shows up in cleaning products, too. Check the ingredients in dish soap, drain cleaner, and even toilet cleaner — you might be surprised to see it on the list. It can be toxic and cause lots of harm to mammals, but birds and reptiles, too. Pets can be affected by formaldehyde, just like us humans. Their sensitivity and reactions to it depend on how much they're exposed to it and for how long. 

When pets breathe in formaldehyde fumes, especially if they have sensitive lungs like cats, they might start coughing, sneezing, or find it hard to breathe. Their eyes, nose, and throat can get irritated, similar to what happens to us. If they eat a cleaning product containing the chemical, even indirectly such as licking residue off their paws, they could end up with tummy trouble like vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain. It's best to avoid using products with formaldehyde in them at all, rather than just trying to control your pet's exposure to it.

Phenol might prompt dangerous symptoms

Phenol is a toxic chemical that shows up in a lot of common household cleaners, including big brand names like Meytol and Dettol, plus toilet bowl cleaners, and surface sprays. While it's great for getting things clean, it can harm our furry friends. If your pet breathes in phenol fumes, they might start coughing, sneezing, and experiencing excessive nasal discharge. You might also notice labored breathing. Prolonged exposure to these fumes may exacerbate preexisting respiratory issues in dog breeds that are prone to them or even cause new problems in otherwise healthy pets.

Ingestion of phenol is equally concerning. Pets may accidentally take in these chemicals by licking surfaces cleaned with phenol-containing products or by drinking water contaminated with residues. Even a small amount can result in severe gastrointestinal distress, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In more serious cases, it can cause damage to the mouth, throat, and stomach lining, potentially leading to life-threatening complications. To protect your pets, consider using pet-safe cleaning alternatives or those labeled as non-toxic. Always read the list of ingredients before choosing a certain cleaner to understand if it contains phenol or not.

Isopropyl alcohol avoidance is key

Isopropyl alcohol, commonly known as rubbing alcohol, is a common household chemical, but its use can pose significant risks to our furry companions. You might use it as a disinfectant, however, it's important to ensure all surfaces are completely wiped down or dry before your pet has access to them again. Pets, particularly dogs and cats, may be attracted to the smell or taste of isopropyl alcohol and might try to taste it if it's left within their reach. Ingesting isopropyl alcohol can result in severe toxicity, causing symptoms like drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of coordination, depression, and in severe cases, seizures or organ failure.

Pets can be adversely affected by inhaling isopropyl alcohol fumes due to their sensitive respiratory system, too. The potent odor can overwhelm them, causing breathing difficulties. It's crucial to maintain adequate ventilation when using isopropyl alcohol indoors and to create a separate, well-ventilated space for pets during cleaning to reduce their exposure to these fumes.