Using Household Cleaners Around Pets
Courtesy of Dr. Gary Pusillo
When it comes to using household cleaners, pet owners should be cautious. There is a huge need for research on the use of common cleaners, their interactions, and the consequences of the resultant odors on pets, including potential eye irritants. Evaluating the health effects of household cleaners on pets is important as these cleaners are commonly used by homeowners with at least one pet in the family.
It’s important to note that long-term “typical use” studies are different from other types of studies that focus on household cleaner poisoning or high-dose exposures; for example, if large amounts of a chemical were accidentally spilled on the skin of a pet, or the pet accidentally came into contact with a floor cleaner at some point in its usage.
This is the time of year I start to get calls from friends and family about eye irritations in their cats and dogs. My friends and family actually clean their houses before Thanksgiving and around Christmastime! Some of my friends and family get their houses ready for the holidays by painting walls and ceilings or by installing new flooring.
The high use of rug cleaners, floor cleaners, wood floor treatments, tile sanitizers, upholstery spot cleaners, and air fresheners all lead to what I call “Holiday Eye.” One or more of my friends typically report that their pets’ eyes are showing signs of mild irritation, slight redness, and slight tearing.
In the Midwest, fresh air is currently in short supply as houses are “buttoned-up” against the cold weather. At the misery of humans and animals in the home, heating ducts are spewing out hidden mold spores, dust particles, and dry air.
When you combine household chemical usage, new rugs, fresh paint, winter proofed homes, and dry air, a dog or cat will frequently develop slight redness in the eyes, runny eyes, mild irritation, and frequent eye rubbing.
What can you do?
1. Remove your pet from the immediate area where household chemicals are being used. Note: be certain the “banishment area” is pet-proof and safe. Provide a healthy chew treat to keep your pet occupied during the banishment period.
2. Keep all food, water, bedding, grooming tools, toys, and feeding equipment isolated from contamination during household chemical usage.
3. Use all of your resources, including a trusted veterinarian, to make an appropriate differential diagnosis of eye abnormalities. Take a picture and email it to your expert of choice.
4. If you use an air freshener spray, wait at least 1 hour before letting your pet in the room.
5. Use an air purifying system in the room(s) your pet occupies for most of the day.
6. Have a professional heating and cooling service clean and inspect your furnace and ductwork.
7. When using any rug, floor, or upholstery cleaner, follow label precautions, especially if it’s possible pets could come into contact with a treated surface.
8. Do not use different cleaners in the same room while a pet is present; this includes countertop sanitizers and sink cleaners.
9. When cleaning rugs, make sure the rug is completely dry and the entire room has been adequately vented before allowing your pet access to its normal living space.
10. Don’t allow your pet to come into contact with lawns or park areas that have just undergone fall fertilization or chemical treatments.
11. Brand-new rugs and flooring should be off-limits to pets for at least one week after installation. Make sure the house is properly ventilated to compensate for the potential odors and chemical irritants that may originate from the newly installed rugs and flooring.
12. Check with your pet’s groomer to ensure the shampoos and other substances they use are compatible with the types of cleaners and chemicals typically used in your household.
13. Supplement extra Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) at 100 IU’s per day for animals under 40 Lb and 200 IU’s for pets over 40 Lb, if you know you will be exposing them to an abnormal amount of irritants during the holiday preparation season.
The materials and information provided on this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of your veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian if you have medical questions concerning diagnosis, treatment, therapy, or medical attention.