The windows are streaked. There are bits of leaves, sand, and cat fur underfoot. Winter has left us a salty car, and a messy house. But before unleashing a tornado to whisk away the debris, consider these precautions:
1. Read those product labels! It’s important to know what ingredients are in household cleaning supplies, for your sake as well as your pet’s health.
2. Be aware of what cleaning products are hazardous to your pet if exposed to them. Antifreeze (ethylene glycol), fertilizers, insecticides, and rodent poisons are also potentially deadly.
3. Follow directions for use. A disinfectant will kill germs, but what if you use it incorrectly? Cleaners like Lysol® and some other disinfectants contain phenols, which should not be used to disinfect your pet’s litter pans, food bowls, or bedding. Cats are especially susceptible to phenol poisoning. And don’t assume that two products mixed together will make a better cleaning solution. You may inadvertently create a deadly concoction too hazardous for you to use. Make note of any directions on the label like “do not mix with bleach” or “do not combine with other cleaning agents.”
4. Avoid exposing your pet to toxic chemicals. If the product will irritate a human, consider what it might do to your pet, whose system is smaller and more susceptible to poisoning. Keep pets away until the cleaned area is dry. Your pet may ingest a toxic dose if it grooms itself after walking across your newly mopped kitchen floor. Also maintain good ventilation in the area you are cleaning, in order to avoid inhalation of fumes. Keep pets indoors if you or your neighbors spray the lawn or garden with weedkiller or insect repellent. Even rain can renew the toxicity of a sprayed yard, weeks after the initial application has dried. Immediately clean up any chemical that you’ve spilled, and seal in a container that’s inaccessible to pets or children. Dispose of it properly.
5. Be prepared to act quickly in the event your pet is exposed to something toxic. Note any cautions on the label about what to do in the case of accidental exposure, such as, “in case of eye contact or prolonged exposure to skin, flush thoroughly with water to reduce irritation.” Assemble an emergency first aid kit for your pet, and consult your veterinarian about what products you might want to include.
6. Know the signs of chemical intoxication. Symptoms of chemical exposure or poisoning include salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, or central nervous system disturbances such as twitching, trembling, stumbling, fainting or coma. If you know or suspect your pet has ingested a poisonous or hazardous substance, call your veterinarian immediately. For any animal poison-related emergency, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, you may also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline number at (888) 426-4435. The $55 consultation fee can be applied to your credit card.
To avoid exposing my family and pets to dangerous chemicals, I now use bio-friendly cleaners wherever possible. (And I don’t do windows!)