Summer is almost here, which means it’s about time to break out the sunscreen, fire up the barbecue and get the backyard ready for warm-weather gatherings.
However, some of the products we typically associate with summer could spell big problems for pets. Here are 11 items to keep away from your cat or dog this season:
1. Pool Chemicals
“Chlorine is highly toxic, especially in the concentrated tablets or crystals used in pools,” says Dr. Judy Morgan, a holistic veterinarian and author. “The strong vapors released when the container is opened can also cause respiratory distress.”
Algaecides, which are also used to treat pools, are highly corrosive and can cause ulcers and intestinal damage in pets. Some of these products can have a sweet taste, Morgan says, so be sure to clean up any spills around your deck, yard or garage and call your vet immediately if your pet ingests any of these chemicals.
2. Lawn Care Products
Many of today’s weed killers were actually developed during World War II as chemical weapons, says Gena Lorainne, a horticulturist and plant expert at Fantastic Gardeners. You’ll want to keep pets far from these products, as well as recently treated lawns.
“Dogs exposed to herbicide-treated lawns are reported to have a significantly higher risk of bladder cancer,” she says.
Ingredients like disulfoton, which sometimes appears in rose pesticides, are potentially lethal to dogs, she says. What’s worse, they find it extremely tasty. Glyphosate, another ingredient used in many weed killers, is also potentially toxic to pets.
“If ingested in small doses it may not cause harm, but this is not always the case with pets as they like to roll on the grass and it can build up in their fur,” she says.
Morgan recommends using corn gluten as a safer alternative. “It works to kill weeds and is not considered toxic for dogs and cats.”
Ingredients in common pest-control products are highly toxic to pets. Slug and snail bait contain metaldehyde, which can cause neurologic toxicity and seizures if ingested by pets, says Morgan. Organophosphates, another common ingredient in lawn and garden pesticide products, can also cause seizures.
If your pet ingests anything out of the ordinary, contact your veterinarian immediately, says Dr. Rachel Barrack of New York City’s Animal Acupuncture.
“Sunscreen contains zinc oxide and can be particularly damaging to a dog’s intestines if ingested,” says Barrack. Call your vet straight away if your pet has consumed sunscreen and has bloody diarrhea or bloody vomit, as this could be a sign of intestinal damage.
Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) is another sunscreen ingredient that can be toxic to dogs, Morgan says. If your pet needs sun protection, look for products that are specifically designed for use on animals, she adds.
5. Barbecues and Grills
Breaking out the barbecue is a summer rite of passage for many, but you need to stay alert when grilling with your dog. Freestanding grills can easily be knocked over by a curious pet, Morgan says.
Dogs may also be drawn to the tasty mix in the grill’s grease pan. Eating this can cause vomiting, diarrhea and even pancreatitis, she adds.
The foods you choose to grill could also pose problems for your pets. Onions and garlic can be extremely harmful to dogs, says Barrack, and the bones in ribs and wings could be a choking hazard. They can also splinter in a pet’s intestines, causing tears or blockages that require surgery, she adds.
Corn on the cob is also dangerous because the cob doesn’t break down, essentially forming a cork in the stomach, Morgan says.
6. Bug Spray
Never use human insect repellents on your pets. Some contain DEET, which if ingested can cause vomiting, tremors and seizures, says Barrack. Call your vet immediately if your pet consumes or comes into contact with your bug spray.
Essential oils like neem, lavender, rose geranium and lemongrass can help keep the bugs away and are safer to use around pets, Morgan says.
7. Aloe Vera
All forms of aloe vera are toxic to dogs and cats, Barrack says. They contain agents that pull water into the intestines, causing a severe laxative effect. Contact your veterinarian if your pet ingests aloe in your yard or medicine cabinet. They may need to be put on fluids to prevent dehydration.
8. Summer Foods
Xylitol, a sugar substitute found in some frozen treats, is extremely toxic to dogs, Barrack says. It can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), seizures, liver failure and clotting problems, leading to death. Symptoms can occur within minutes of ingestion, she adds, so contact your veterinarian immediately if you believe your pet has ingested xylitol.
Sweets are less appealing to cats, but you still want to contact your vet if you suspect your cat has consumed any xylitol, Barrack says.
Other potentially harmful summer foods include chocolate, grapes, avocados and the pits of peaches and plums.
9. Cleaning Supplies
Getting the house ready for warm-weather visitors could expose your pet to harmful chemicals, including bleach, ammonia, chlorine, glycol ethers and formaldehyde. These can cause cancer, anemia and organ damage, Morgan says. Vapors from these products can also irritate pets’ respiratory systems.
“Even all natural products and products such as vinegar and hydrogen peroxide can be detrimental to your pet’s health,” Barrack says.
When cleaning, make sure to let all surfaces dry before your pet is allowed back in the room.
Put your pet in a separate room when breaking out your swimsuit and tank tops from storage. The mothballs that kept your clothes safe during the winter could cause big problems for your pet.
“Ingesting just a few of these pellets can lead to fatal liver damage, respiratory failure, seizures or heart arrhythmia,” says Morgan.
Don’t be tempted to share your mojito, or any kind of alcoholic drink, with your pet.
“Alcohol is a depressant that can cause breathing and coordination problems, coma and death [in pets],” Barrack says.
Helen Anne Travis is a freelance writer based in Tampa, FL. She also writes for CNN, The Guardian and The Globe and Mail.