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CNB PET TIPS: These Common Household Cleaners Can Actually Harm Your Pet

With a surge in household cleaner sales and a spike in Pet Poison Hotline calls, now more than ever, pet owners are concerned with toxic chemical exposure to pets.

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Over the past several months, Alex Blutinger, VMD, DACVECC, Critical Care Veterinary Specialist, BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital, says he's seen a rise in concerns from pet owners about the potential dangers of common household cleaning items, including hand sanitizer, bleach, and alcohol-based products. Though many of these products are often non-life-threatening, Dr. Blutinger says in large doses, they can lead to more serious issues, including vomiting, hypersalivation, abdominal pain, incoordination, and in some cases, seizures or respiratory failure.   

Here are tips and advice on how to keep clean while also protecting pets from common harmful household cleaners. 

Toxic Ingredients to Avoid 

  • Hydrogen Peroxide: Topical exposure of hydrogen peroxide, such as to the skin or paws, may result in skin irritation and rashes. Three percent hydrogen peroxide may at times be used to induce vomiting in dogs, but should carefully be done under the direction of your veterinarian. While 3% hydrogen peroxide is often effective in making dogs vomit, it is inadvisable for cats. If consumed by cats, hydrogen peroxide may cause severe bleeding and inflammation in the stomach and esophagus. Though effective in dogs to release ingestion of harmful toxins, 3% hydrogen peroxide can cause inflammation and ulceration of the gastrointestinal tract. Immediately consult with a veterinarian if you think your pet has ingested a harmful chemical.  
  • Isopropyl Alcohol (or rubbing alcohol): If ingested by pets, isopropyl alcohol can cause vomiting, disorientation, incoordination, and in severe cases, collapse, respiratory depression and seizures. Rubbing alcohol should not be used at home on a pet’s skin. It is can be used as an antiseptic in a controlled hospital setting, but if used inappropriately (i.e. on open wounds, in high concentrations, in large volumes, etc.) it can cause damage to the skin, delay wound healing, and have negative effects on other body systems.  
  • Bleach: Bleach may have severe effects on dog and cats. Severity of these effects depend on the amount of bleach the pet has been exposed to and the means in which they were exposed, such as walking through a puddle on the floor, chewing on a bottle cap, and so forth. Regular strength household bleach can cause skin irritation, eye irritation and swelling and tearing of the eyes. Ingestion of high concentrated bleach can result in esophageal burning, stomach lining deterioration, oral ulceration, severe depression, pawing at the mouth, hypersalivation, vomiting or retching, lethargy, and inappetence.  
  • Ammonia: Ammonia is an ingredient used in some disinfecting wipes or sprays, which can cause corrosive injury to any tissue it contacts. Like other chemicals, it may act as a local or systemic irritant. When aerosolized, and even in low concentrations, it can cause eye swelling, tearing, and burning. At higher concentrations it can cause irritation to the throat and lungs, leading to coughing and airway inflammation.   
  • Phenols: From disinfectant sprays to toilet bowl cleaners, phenols can be found in many common household cleaning products. These products have the potential to be extremely corrosive if they come into contact the pet’s skin or eyes, or if it is swallowed. If inhaled, phenols can cause detrimental injury to the lungs. Be particularly mindful of these chemicals, as they can be rapidly absorbed through the skin causing incoordination, hypersalivation, and seizures.