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How To Keep Your Pet Safe From Toxic Cleaning Products

Get your house sparkling without endangering Felix or Fido.


Keeping your home clean is important year-round — but it may be on the forefront of your mind now, as spring cleaning season approaches. While the greenery blooms back to life outdoors, you’ll want to bring that freshness inside and say goodbye to the dust and grime of wintertime. But even more important than your house’s cleanliness is your pet’s safety. Did you know there are certain household cleaners that are toxic to dogs and cats? Keep reading to find out how you can keep your house sparkling without endangering Felix or Fido. 

Can cleaning products actually hurt my pet?

If cleaning products come into close contact with your pet, they can indeed do some harm. And it can happen more easily than you’d think. In January 2020, a UK dog made news because she got poisoned from walking across a newly cleaned floor and licking her paws, says the Humane Society. Thankfully, she survived — but her story remains a cautionary tale for pet owners everywhere.

Your dog or cat can accidentally touch or ingest powerful, dangerous chemicals by simply doing what they normally do: licking, laying down, rolling around. And while both cats and dogs can be affected by dangerous chemicals, cats are especially at risk, says senior analyst for cat protection and policy for the Humane Society. They’re smaller and lack some protective liver enzymes. They’re also naturally curious and can access a lot of seemingly inaccessible places around your home. 

What chemicals are especially dangerous for pets?

Before you throw away all your cleaning supplies and resign yourself to a life of filth to protect your furry friend, keep in mind that most household products should be okay to use around animals, as long as you follow manufacturer’s instructions and keep them out of reach of your pet, says PetMD. That being said, House Beautiful notes there are certain chemicals with which you should be extra careful if you have a furry friend. Here are four.


Bleach has a strong scent that can cause your pet breathing problems or irritate their nose if inhaled. It’s also toxic if ingested. Cleaning expert Deyan Dimitrov tells House Beautiful it’s a good idea to fully rinse any surface on which you’ve used bleach with water, keeping your pet blocked off from the area until it is fully dry. 


Ammonia is a common ingredient in multi-surface cleaners, floor cleaners, and more. It can cause burning in the stomach, throat, and nose if licked, and can irritate pets’ eyes and skin.

Bezalkonium Chloride

This chemical exists in some antibacterial bathroom and kitchen sprays. It isn’t fatal to your pet, but can cause irritation on your pet’s nose, in their eyes, and on their paws. If you use it, make sure surfaces are fully dried before allowing your pet to go near.

Air Fresheners with Phthalates 

These are sometimes listed as a “fragrance,” and can make your pet sick if inhaled. And any product that’s in a spray bottle — not just air fresheners — may travel through the air and poison your pet’s water bowl, former holistic veterinarian Dr. Cathy Alinovi tells PetMD, so it’s a good idea to keep water bowls out of the room when using any spray or aerosol products. 

How do I know if my pet has been poisoned?

Unfortunately, cats and dogs don’t use the same language we do. If they’re feeling off from potential poisoning, you have to depend on their physical behavior in order to determine when you should take them to the vet. Symptoms may differ depending on what substance your pet came into contact with, how much, and whether they ingested or touched it — but there are some things you can look out for.

Symptoms of poisoning in dogs, according to the AKC:

  • Vomiting or loss of appetite
  • Blood in stool
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures 
  • Bleeding or bruising (look on areas with less hair, like inside of ears)
  • Behavioral changes

Symptoms of poisoning in cats, according to PetMD:

  • Vomiting/diarrhea
  • Restlessness
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Wobbly gait
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures
  • Increased heart rate, thirst, and urination
  • High temperature 
  • Panting

What do I do if my pet is poisoned? 

First, call your vet or an animal hospital, says the AKC. But if you’re not able to get in touch with a medical professional, there are some 24/7 emergency hotlines you can call. Find them below.

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC): (888) 426-4435

This resource is available every day of the year for 24 hours a day. It’s free to call, but a consultation fee may apply. Visit their website to learn more

Pet Poison HelpLine: (855) 764-7661

This is another 24/7 poison control center. It costs $85 per call, but you get immediate access to a veterinary professional. It doesn’t matter what animal or poison you’re dealing with, they’ll give you help. Visit their website to learn more

The Bottom Line

Don’t be afraid to clean your house if you have pets. In fact, your pets are probably one of the reasons you have to keep cleaning the house so frequently, thanks to shedding and muddy paws. Just keep your fur babies, their food and water, and anything they put in their mouths away from the spaces you clean, and don’t let them back in until those spaces are fully dried. Then you can snuggle up with your furry friend and enjoy your clean house — until they make it messy again.

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