There are a great number of unseen health hazards in our homes that you may be unaware of and these include a large variety of commonly used household cleaners and air fresheners which can be dangerous for dogs (and you!). Many of these household products contain chemicals that give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – this simply means that the molecules are light enough to become gas and float into the air. A lot of these chemicals have been shown to have harmful long term effects, leading to cancer and other types of tissue damage. Our dogs (and other pets) can be at greater risk than us due to their faster metabolisms and smaller lungs. Pets process these chemicals at a faster rate and absorb more of these toxins into their bloodstreams as they breathe them in more rapidly.
These potentially harmful household products include:
Ordinary bad odours usually mean that something needs to be cleaned. Covering up persistent odours is not a sensible or healthy solution because the source of the problem will still be there. Controlling the growth of bacteria will give you a healthier home and one that smells better too. Strong dog odour can mean potential health issues in your dog which you need to address rather than mask. One study concluded that many air fresheners often contain toxic chemicals including formaldehyde and petroleum distillates. The side effects of these chemicals may include headaches and diarrhoea, and some studies have suggested that they can also cause developmental and reproductive problems. It is best to avoid using air fresheners altogether and instead clean properly and ventilate your home.
Concentrated toilet cleaners and general bathroom cleaners
Keep dogs away from these cleaning products. Shut them out of the room while spraying bathroom cleaners. Close toilet lids to keep dogs from drinking the water especially if you use automatic chemical tank or bowl treatments. Obviously ensure that there is plenty of fresh, clean drinking water available so there is no need for your dog to look for water elsewhere.
Toxic drain cleaners give off dangerous fumes long after you've finished using them.
May contain glycol ethers which are found in many cleaning products that are not safe for pets such as glass cleaners, carpet cleaners and spot removers. Glycol ethers have been linked to anaemia, lung damage and kidney damage in dogs and people.
Oven cleaners often include ammonia which has a very high VOC – this can cause burns to mucous membranes and may contribute to asthma. If ammonia is mixed with bleach it creates a poisonous gas which can be deadly to small pets.
Even if you manage to get all the residue off the floor the vapours from floor cleaners still linger and are dangerous to your pet. Try a non-toxic, pet safe cleaner instead. Remember your dog will lick many of these chemicals off their feet and coat after you use them.
Pesticides and insecticides
These are dangerous and sometimes even deadly. Never use products marketed for the home in poorly ventilated or confined areas. Compounds in pesticides are meant to cause death to certain organisms. While the chemical they use may not be directly lethal, or in a high enough concentration to be fatal to dogs or humans, they can still cause some damage. These chemicals may also accumulate in body tissues with repeated exposure, resulting in impaired health.
Scented dog shampoo and dog cologne!
The strong perfumes in these products may make your dog feel bad when they inhale them and may be unhealthy when ingested. Dogs generally don’t like the smell of perfume. If you need to bathe your dog ensure you use a simple, non-perfumed and organic soap that is suitable for dogs.
It is now well known that smoking, including second hand smoke, is known to contain cancer causing chemicals and particulates. Dogs living in homes with smokers have on average ten times the risk of lung disease compared to people as the smoke tends to hang low to the floor so their exposure is greater. Being in a confined smoking environment may also cause dogs to be at risk of suffering from ulcerated eyes. Don’t smoke, especially around your dog!
By using the numerous organic cleaning products available to buy (or by saving money and making your own) both dogs and people can breathe easier and live healthier lives. Below is a list of some commonly used safe and effective household cleaners:
A great naturally abrasive ingredient with mild alkaline properties. It’s also a natural deodoriser and stain remover, rinses easily, is completely non-toxic and it’s extremely affordable! A saucer of baking soda can help neutralise unpleasant smells in a room.
A natural and mild acid, it’s also a known disinfectant that can remove stains, sanitise, and is also completely non-toxic and inexpensive.
A non-toxic and natural bleaching agent which can disinfect and remove stains.
Tea tree oil and grapefruit oil are known to have antibacterial properties. Please be aware, however, that essential oils are not always appropriate for dogs. Some oils such as lavender are safer to use than others but if you plan to use any essential oils around your dog do get some professional advice.
Naturally cuts through grease and leaves a fresh scent.
Ordinary cheap toothpaste can be great at removing fabric and worktop stains.
A note about slippery floors!
Constantly slipping about on laminate or wooden floors can cause soft tissue or structural damage and much discomfort to your dog. If a dog slips and slides on a daily basis it is not dissimilar to us trying to walk on ice! It just isn’t nice for a dog to slip and feel unsteady and unsafe every day. If you have slippery floors use non-slip rugs to make things easier and more comfortable for your dog.
By making your home healthier and safer for your dog you may well become healthier too!