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Reviewed and updated for accuracy on May 28, 2020 by Jennifer Coates, DVM

We all want what is best for our pets, which means keeping them away from any potential dangers. That’s why it’s so important to do your homework in determining which products, such as household cleaners, best suit the needs—and safety—of your family.

Toxins in Cleaning Products

According to the American Lung Association, many cleaning supplies and household products can irritate the eyes and throat and can cause headaches and other problems—including cancer.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals found household products to be the sixth most common cause of acute toxicosis in pets during 2019. These household chemicals include, but are not limited to, cleaning products, laundry detergent and paint.

Dr. Branson Ritchie, DVM, of the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine and co-director of the Infectious Diseases Laboratory, explains, “Any material that’s considered toxic for your family should also be considered a risk for your companion animals. Birds and reptiles are particularly sensitive to aerosolized toxins and can often serve as sentinels for environmental toxins.”

Dr. Ritchie goes on to say, “You should take the same precautions to protect your pets from chemicals that you would for your children.”

“It’s all chemicals! There is no such thing as a product without chemicals,” explains Dr. Patrick Carney, DVM, of Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. “Natural/green does not automatically equal healthier. For example, pyrethrin is a totally natural flea product that is very non-toxic to dogs, has a slight risk of toxicosis in cats, and will very effectively kill all the fish in your fish tank.”

He continues, “For me it boils down to common sense: if there’s a good chance a pet will ingest a cleaner or be exposed to excessive fumes, don’t use it.”

Not All Labels Mean Safe for Pets

Keep in mind that green, or eco-friendly, cleaning products are not all the same. There are countless meanings and uses of the word “green,” and some products labeled this way may still contain toxins for pets.

Finding out which chemicals are being used, and if they are safe for use around pets, is indeed the best way to keep your family safe in the home.

Nontoxic Cleaning Products

Choose green cleaning products that are safe for pets and for the environment. There are plenty of cleaners on the market today that are highly rated, eco-friendly and safe for you and your beloved pets.

Try not to introduce toxic chemicals into your home. When using any chemicals, a residue is left behind. Keep in mind, pets use their mouths to clean themselves, which increases the potential to ingest a potentially harmful substance that comes in contact with their fur or paws.

Dr. Ritchie explains, “It’s better for your pets and for your family to use non-toxic materials in any enclosed space. If you do need to use chemicals, read the label thoroughly so that you know the dangers associated with that chemical. And be sure you, your family and your pets are in a well-ventilated space.”

Using only non-toxic, pet-safe, green cleaning products is not only pet-friendly, but it’s also environmentally and home-friendly, too.

For indoor messes, try a non-toxic cleaning product like Earth Rated unscented stain and odor remover. This product is not only safe for you and your pets, but it also works great for pet odor removal!

When a pet mess occurs in outdoor spaces, consider a cleaner like Simple Green outdoor odor eliminator, which uses naturally derived microorganisms to neutralize and eliminate pet waste odors. This product is highly rated for grass, synthetic turf, decks and patios alike.

Plant-Based Cleaners

Non-toxic plant-based products clean your home without the unpleasant and potentially harmful residue that can be found in conventional cleaners. Plant-based cleaning products are made with naturally derived, safe and biodegradable ingredients, often using sustainable manufacturing practices.

Biokleen Bac-Out Stain + Odor remover is a solution developed without artificial fragrances or colors, and it works great on almost any surface. It uses live enzyme cultures, citrus extracts and plant-based surfactants to clean pet messes.

Enzyme Cleaners

From everything to urine, vomit, feces, blood, grass and dirt, non-toxic enzyme cleaners remain top-rated pet stain and odor removers.

Enzymes are biological compounds that speed up a chemical reaction. When used in cleaners, they break down biological substances such as urine and feces. This makes them the perfect cleaner for pet messes.

Enzymatic cleaners are non-toxic and biodegradable, which means they’re safe to use in any room of your home. Only Natural Pet Organic Stain & Odor Remover is a highly rated enzyme spray that works on almost any surface.

Symptoms of Toxicity in Pets

“It’s relatively uncommon to see cleaning products cause acute toxicosis [in pets], Dr. says Carney. “However, because our pets are lower to the ground—carpets and floors—they can be more sensitive. [Problems can arise] if they ingest any of the cleaning products, or a cat with breathing problems, for example, will be much more sensitive to the fumes.” He continues, “With regards to chronic toxicities, there is potential evidence that, for example, hyperthyroidism in cats can come as result of chronic exposure to the chemicals found in fire retardants.”

Dr. Carney advises, “All cleaning products should be kept out of the reach of pets at all times, even the green cleaning products.” Make sure that you store them in a place where even the craftiest pets can’t get into them.

Dr. Ritchie adds, “Signs of acute or chronic exposure to environmental toxins may include clean ocular or nasal discharge, sneezing, coughing, itching, skin irritation and diarrhea. Be sure to make your veterinary professional aware of any potential toxins you may have used in your home prior to your companion animal developing any of these critical changes. And remember that you can always call the 24/7 Animal Poison Control Center.”

By Carly Sutherland

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