Spring Cleaning and Other Safety Hazards

National Animal Poison Prevention Week is March 18-24

March is Poison Prevention Month, and the third week of March is dedicated to bringing knowledge and awareness to all pet owners about how we can keep our animals safe from poisonous hazards, especially in our homes. Every home contains substances that are toxic to our precious pets — including items as common as food, household cleaners, and gardening supplies. As we enter a new season this month, here are some of the top springtime hazards to be aware of:

Spring Cleaning

Before you start your ritual of spring cleaning, it’s important to remember that some household cleaners can be toxic and even potentially fatal to your pets. If ingested, surface cleaners can cause vomiting and diarrhea, or blistering and rashes if they come into contact with your pet’s skin, due to common ingredients such as ammonia, chlorine, glycol ethers and formaldehyde.

Just a few popular cleaners that contain some of the above-mentioned ingredients are:

  • Bleach
  • Carpet fresheners/shampoos
  • Floor, tile and grout cleaners
  • Bathroom and toilet bowl cleaners
  • All purpose cleaners
  • Drain openers
  • Glass cleaners
  • Laundry detergent
  • Oven cleaners

As a precaution, follow the products’ instructions for safe and proper usage. Keep your pets clear of the areas in which you’re cleaning, minimize leftover residue as best you can, and restrict their access until all cleaning products have dried. When you’re done cleaning, air out the room or house and make absolutely sure the products are stored safely away with child safety locks on cabinet doors, or in other areas out of reach.

As an alternative to potentially toxic cleaners, opt for pet-safe products and non-toxic, natural cleaners. There are a number of products on the market labeled as such, or you can look up how to make your own pet-safe cleaners with common ingredients such as baking soda or vinegar.

Gardening and Household Plants

The springtime sun means that many of us will soon be working on our gardens, but beware of fertilizers and pesticides! Ingredients such as iron, organophosphates, and metaldehyde are common in plant care products and pesticides, but they’re toxic to both cats and dogs. Ingestion of these chemicals can cause lethargy, tremors, abdominal pain, vomit, diarrhea, disorientation, and other potentially life-threatening reactions.

Watch out for some of these more common, potentially harmful dangers found in yards and gardens:

  • Mulch products
  • Fertilizers, soil additives, and pesticides
  • Slug and snail baits
  • Compost
  • Certain kinds of flowers and plants:
  • Sago palm
  • Lilies
  • Crocuses
  • Azaleas
  • Oleander
  • Daffodils
  • Tulips

As a precaution, create boundaries for your pets in your garden or yard. Use paths to help train pets on where they are allowed, and consider separating play areas from gardening areas. Keep your pets clear of the places where you’re applying lawn products, and let the applications dry before allowing them to return outside. If you compost, keep curious pets out of the bin or pile. For gardens with grass or hedges, keep them trimmed and maintained to avoid the risks of ticks, fleas, and thorns. Always store your garden supplies where your pets cannot access them.

Busy Bees and Other Bugs

Warmer temperatures draw out insects and bugs, which can potentially carry disease and poisons harmful to our animals. Fleas, ticks, and mosquitos are common parasites that carry a risk of tapeworm, heart worms, and Lyme disease. Many responsible pet owners use preventative products year round, but it’s important to be aware that improper use can cause toxicity!

Over-application or use of the wrong products (i.e. products formulated for a different species) can cause reactions such as excessive drooling, muscle tremors, seizures, vomiting, diarrheas, or difficulty breathing. Prevent overdose by carefully reading product labels and following directions, including how much, how often and how to apply these products. Make sure they are labeled specifically for dogs or for cats and take note of the minimum ages and weights defined.

In addition to fleas, ticks, and mosquitos, pets — especially those that are allowed outdoors — are susceptible to bee or wasp stings, particularly on their noses and paws. In most cases of insect stings, there will be mild swelling and tenderness. Remove the stinger as soon as possible to prevent the venom from spreading, but be sure NOT to squeeze the stinger with your fingers or tweezers; instead, use a credit card to scrape it out. If your furry family member is allergic to bees or wasps, they can go into anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal without veterinary attention. If your pet becomes lethargic, starts vomiting, or has difficultly breathing, bring them to your veterinarian immediately.

As a precaution, check your property for bee hives, which can commonly be found in trees or shrubs, but also in more uncommon areas such as the ground or even inside your walls. To prevent your garden or yard from attracting bees in the first place, water your lawn frequently (ground bees prefer dry, sandy soil) and avoid planting flowering fruit trees and flowers with tubular-shaped blooms.

What’s Cooking in the Kitchen

Last but not least, some of the most common pet poisons are found in human foods! While we may find these treats delicious, they are dangerous to animals:

  • Chocolate (especially dark chocolate)
  • Raisins and grapes
  • Garlic, onions, and chives
  • Avocado
  • Yeast dough
  • Coffee grounds
  • Fatty foods
  • Tea
  • Alcohol
  • Any products containing xylitol (which can be found in some peanut butter brands)

Emergency Instructions

If you believe your pet has been exposed to or ingested poison, act immediately — do not wait for them to show symptoms or signs of illness. Because every case is different, it is also advised that you do not attempt to treat your pet with home antidotes, and do not attempt to induce vomiting without first consulting a veterinary professional.

  1. Remove your dog or cat from the area where the poisoning occurred.
  2. Check to make sure they are safe, breathing, and acting normally.
  3. Call for veterinary medical advice; if your regular veterinarian is available, call them first. If it after hours, call a veterinary emergency clinic. Professionals will tell you how to proceed, and you may be asked to either rush your animal to them or to call an animal poison control hotline.

For a more detailed list of animal poisons, see the Pet Poison Helpline poison list or ASPCA Animal Poison Control lists.

Written by Joanna Wong, Communications Manager of Core Paws

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