Many common items found in your home, yard, and garage—such as chocolate, fertilizer, or a bouquet of flowers—can be toxic to cats and dogs. While most pet poisonings occur when Fluffy or Fido inadvertently eat something they shouldn’t, they can also experience health problems when a caustic or toxic product (think: bleach) comes in contact with their skin, says Las Vegas–based veterinarian Shadi J. Ireifej of VetTriage.
You might be surprised by the hazards hiding in your home. Here are eight prevalent items that present a potential danger for pets, and tips for keeping your beloved pal safe around the house.
Does your cat like to nibble on your houseplants? Many plants and flowers can be dangerous for pets, so be cautious about what you bring inside or put in your yard.
For example, lilies are toxic to a cat’s kidneys, says Ireifej. Time is of the essence if your cat consumes any part of a lily; while there may be some signs of gastrointestinal distress, it’s the kidneys that are the biggest concern, he says. Outside plants can also be an issue. Oleander, a floral bush commonly found in California, is toxic to the heart for both cats and dogs, notes Ireifej.
Other plants to keep away from pets include:
- autumn crocus
- sago palms
Smart tip: Not sure if a houseplant or flower is safe for your pet? Ireifej recommends looking it up before bringing it into your home. The ASPCA lists more than 1,000 plants that are toxic to pets.
While all pharmaceuticals should be kept away from pets, it’s easy to forget over-the-counter medications that can also be dangerous for pets when consumed, including ibuprofen, Pepto Bismol, and pseudoephedrine. “A lot of our over-the-counter pain relievers can cause significant toxicosis in our dogs,” says veterinarian Elizabeth Yi of Metropolitan Animal Specialty Hospital in Los Angeles. Everyday painkillers such as naproxen (Aleve) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) have the potential to be lethal, according to the Pet Poison Hotline. In 2018, the ASPCA received nearly 40,000 calls about pets that had ingested over-the-counter medications and supplements.
Be cautious with any animal medications you have on hand, too—they often have added flavors that make them more enticing, notes the American Animal Hospital Association. Even if it's a pet-friendly drug, taking too much can be unhealthy or dangerous.
3. Bleach and Other Cleaners
Cleaning agents can be toxic for humans and critters when eaten, breathed in, or inadvertently applied to the skin. “Bleach is effective for cleaning, but caustic if inhaled or ingested,” Ireifej says. And, if your pet steps in bleach, it can lead to inflammation of the paw pads. That's not to say that you can't use bleach: Cleaning your pet’s cage or toys with diluted bleach is safe, so long as you use it in a well ventilated area and thoroughly rinse the items afterward, according to the ASPCA.
Some cleaning supplies will say if they are toxic to pets on the label, Yi says. The San Francisco SPCA recommends cat owners opt for nontoxic cleaning products since cats will ingest products that come in contact with their skin or fur while grooming.
When you're using cleaners, try to keep pets out of the room, keep an eye on open containers, and rinse with water or ensure the floor is fully dry after mopping before letting your pet enter, recommends the Humane Society.
4. Essential Oils
Before you use an essential oil in a fragrance diffuser or a cleaning product, check that it is safe for your pet. Essential oils are potentially toxic for animals, Yi says. Ingesting and inhaling them can lead to serious conditions in cats, including central nervous system depression (a dangerous slowing of neurological functions), liver damage, and aspiration pneumonia.
Tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender, mint, ylang-ylang, and many other essential oils are known to be toxic to pets, according to the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University. Yi recommends reaching out to your veterinarian to discuss using essential oils or homeopathic products before purchasing.