We’re all washing our hands (for 20 seconds to the song of our choice) and cleaning our homes more than ever before to protect ourselves against COVID-19. With all this scrubbing and disinfecting going on, we need to make sure the common household products we’re using don’t accidentally harm our pets.
Pets have such a strong sense of smell, and that can lead to serious problems when cleaning products are around.
“Many are scented so that people think they smell pleasant, but that scent could lead to pets ingesting the products,” says Dr. Katy Nelson, Chewy’s resident veterinarian and an associate veterinarian at the Belle Haven Animal Medical Centre in Alexandria, Virginia.
The most severe cases of toxicities are when pets ingest the product, but even if they don’t directly ingest it, it could still cause problems, she says. For example, they could inhale dangerous aerosol cleaners or get chemicals on their paws and try to lick it off which Dr. Nelson points out could cause irritation of paws, tongue, and GI tract.
We still need to thoroughly disinfect the surfaces of our homes, but by thinking ahead to pet safety we can mitigate some potential problems. Follow these tips to keep your pets safe around cleaning products during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.
Ingredients to Watch Out For
The CDC recommends the routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces, like doorknobs, light switches, and electronics with household cleaning products first, and then applying EPA-registered disinfectants. The problem is, the products that are most effective in killing germs contain ingredients that are not safe for pets according to Dr. Katy. While you can still use these products in your home, she advises that we’re extra careful around products that contain the following:
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Bleach, specifically chlorine
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Chemical compounds that contain the word “phenol”
- Glycol ethers (found in paints, and some solvents and cleaning products)
How to Safely Clean with Pets Around
Having a pet doesn’t mean you can’t use these products to disinfect your home. It just means you need to take extra steps to keep your pets safe.
“This is no time to scale back on cleaning and we need to use the most effective products,” Dr. Nelson reminds us. “But, if we have pets in the house, we also need to take extra care to do this in the safest way.”
She recommends taking the follow precautions:
- Keep pets out of the room you are cleaning
- Make sure the area is well ventilated
- Do not leave cleaning products unattended
- Make sure everything is fully dry before letting your pet back into the room
How to Properly Store Your Cleaning Supplies
Even when you’re not cleaning, household cleaners and disinfectants can pose a threat to curious pets.
“Store your cleaning products in an area that is safe from tampering by children and pets,” Dr. Nelson says.
If storing cleaning supplies under the sink, she recommends using a childproof lock to keep the cabinet doors closed off from curious pets. Another, more preferred, option is to store them outside of the home, such as in a garage on a high shelf or in a storage shed.
If you suspect your pet has been poisoned by a cleaner or disinfectant, Dr. Nelson says to call animal poison control immediately. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center can be reached at 888-426-4435 or the Pet Poison Helpline can be reached at 855-764-7661 (fees may apply). “Keep the cleaner on hand so that you can tell the toxicologist that answers your call the specific chemicals that your pet has been exposed to,” Dr. Nelson says.
COVID-19 has forced us to take a closer look at what and how we clean. But even after the coronavirus pandemic is over, it’s good to know how to keep your pets safe around cleaning products.