12 Often Overlooked Household Hazards for Pets

You turn around for a second, and your pet suddenly has something in their mouth that shouldn’t be there. Is it going to harm them? Besides teaching your animal to drop and leave alone unsafe items, it’s critical to prevent accidents before they happen. And that starts by recognizing potential dangers lurking in your house. Here are 12 often overlooked household hazards for pets.

1. Coins and other bite-sized dangers

There probably are countless bite-sized dangers scattered throughout your house that you assume your pet will leave alone. But sometimes curiosity gets the best of even the most well-behaved animals — often to their detriment.

“Such items include coins, buttons, small children’s toys, medicine bottles, jewelry, nails and screws,” according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. “The result may be damage to your pet’s digestive tract and the need for surgical removal of the object.” And some specific items pose further risks. Pennies, for instance, can cause zinc toxicity if ingested.

2. Dryer sheets

The scent and chewable nature of dryer sheets might attract nosy animals. But they’re not something you want in your pet’s mouth.

“Fabric softeners contain cationic detergents,” according to the ASPCA. “These detergents have the potential to cause significant signs like drooling, vomiting, oral and esophageal ulcers and fever.” New dryer sheets pose a greater risk than used ones because of the product’s concentration. Regardless, if your animal does manage to get ahold of one, a vet visit might be in order.

3. Essential oils

Selection of essential oils with various herbs and flowers in the backgroundCredit: Madeleine_Steinbach/Getty Images

Essential oils and potpourri products might seem safe and natural. But some actually can be very toxic to pets — via inhalation, as well as skin exposure and ingestion. “Only a couple of licks or a small amount on the skin could be harmful to a dog, depending on the ingredients in a specific product and how the pet is exposed,” according to VCA Hospitals. An exposed animal might experience difficulty breathing, lethargy, muscle tremors, vomiting and burns, among other symptoms.

Still, not all essential oils are completely unsafe when used appropriately. If you do wish to use them around your pet, consult your veterinarian first to learn proper safety and handling.

4. Soap

Just like with other scented products, pets also might be attracted to fragrant soaps — and use their mouths to investigate. “Most bar soaps and face cleansers contain detergents, which, if ingested, can cause gastrointestinal irritation (including vomiting and diarrhea),” according to the ASPCA. “If the soap also contains essential oils (such as lavender, for example), it is possible that minor central nervous system depression could occur.”

Furthermore, many other personal care products can be unsafe for your animal. For instance, ingesting dental floss can cause gastrointestinal complications that might require surgery. And cotton swabs can lead to choking and GI obstructions.

5. Certain types of peanut butter

Dogs love peanut butter. But not all peanut butter loves dogs. Check your peanut butter label closely for the sweetener xylitol, which “has the potential to cause a sharp drop in a dog’s blood sugar, resulting in depression, loss of coordination and seizures,” according to the ASPCA. “In some cases, this could even result in liver damage.”

Gum, mints and candy also often contain xylitol. So be attentive about keeping them — and any other toxic foods — out of your animal’s mouth.

6. Medications

“Consumption of over-the-counter medication is the top reason pet parents call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, followed by consumption of prescription meds,” according to ASPCA data.

While accidents might happen, the AVMA recommends you never give your animal any medications unless directed by a veterinarian. Some high-risk medications include anti-inflammatory drugs (such as aspirin or ibuprofen), acetaminophen, vitamins, cold medicine, antihistamines and antidepressants. Likewise, alcohol, nicotine and caffeine are toxic to pets. So keep all of your drugs stored safely out of their reach.

7. Fireplaces

cat and dog sleeping by a fireplaceCredit: cscredon/Getty Images

Fire and pets usually don’t mix very well. So if you choose to light a fire in your fireplace — or use a fire pit, grill, stove or candles — it’s important always to stay vigilant about your animals and keep them a safe distance away.

Likewise, other household fixtures can pose risks to pets. For instance, animals might escape through unsecured doors and windows, as well as weak fences. Or they might injure themselves on balconies or stairways. Accidents happen even to the best pet parents. But prevent them as much as possible by observing your home through your animal’s eyes and fixing unsafe spots.

8. Electrical cords

Electrical cords and outlets can be hazardous to many animals. “While electrical cords are especially tempting to puppies, ferrets and pet rodents who like to chew on almost anything, even an adult dog or cat could find them of interest,” according to the AVMA. “Burns or electrocution could result from chewing on live cords.”

Don’t take a life-threatening risk. Cover cords, or put them out of your animal’s reach. If nothing else, keeping cords tucked away will help to prevent a tripping hazard for you and your animal.

9. Bleach and other chemical cleaners

Many people choose to clean with a bleach solution. But it’s important to remember our animals are much more sensitive to the bleach than we are. Birds, for instance, can die instantly from inhaling something toxic. “Products containing bleach can safely disinfect many household surfaces when used properly, but can cause stomach upset, drooling, vomiting or diarrhea, severe burns if swallowed, and respiratory tract irritation if inhaled in a high enough concentration,” according to the AVMA. “In addition, skin contact with concentrated solutions may produce serious chemical burns.”

With bleach and other cleaning products, always follow label instructions, and look specifically for pet guidelines. The ASPCA says cleaning with a bleach solution is generally safe. But it’s best to keep your animal out of the area while you’re cleaning, thoroughly rinse away the bleach and use plenty of ventilation.

10. DIY products

Paints, paint thinner, mineral spirits, grout, adhesives and other DIY products can cause serious complications — including stomach upset and chemical burns — if your pet comes in contact with them. “In particular, several brands of expanding wood glues — those containing diphenylmethane diisocyanate (often abbreviated as MDI) — have the potential to form obstructive gastrointestinal masses if ingested,” the AVMA says. “… This effect has been reported from as little as 2 oz. of glue.”

Because adverse effects can arise from your animal inhaling, ingesting or getting a product on their skin, it’s best to keep them out of the area if you’re doing a home-maintenance project.

11. Insecticides and rodenticides

If you’re using a product that’s meant to kill a certain animal, there’s a good chance it will pose serious or even deadly risks to your pet. So it’s best to avoid the use of rodent poison, mothballs and other similar products. And keep your pet away from animals who might have ingested poison — i.e., if your dog or cat eats a rodent, they might be ingesting poison, too. “Some of the newer rodenticides have no known antidote,” according to the AVMA.

Likewise, a single mothball can make your pet sick. “Mothballs that contain naphthalene can cause serious illness, including digestive tract irritation, liver, kidney and blood cell damage, swelling of the brain tissues, seizures, coma, respiratory tract damage (if inhaled) and even death (if ingested),” the AVMA says.

12. Garage-based products

A young bulldog in a driveway in front of a garageCredit: Melnotte/Getty Images

Many car-care products and other items you typically keep in your garage can be incredibly hazardous for animals. Some include car cleaners, oil, gasoline, ice-melting products, lawn chemicals and antifreeze.

“Ethylene glycol-containing antifreeze and coolants, even in small quantities, can be fatal to pets,” according to the AVMA. “While antifreeze products containing propylene glycol are less toxic than those containing ethylene glycol, they can still be dangerous.” So if you have a garage, take as much care pet-proofing it as you do your house.

Main image credit: FatCamera/Getty Images

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