Imagine the following scene: after you're done removing a stubborn stain, you rest like you've done your job well. And your pet's first order of business is to see what's happened up close, so he sticks his nose straight into the spot cleaner. It's situations like this that are the problem!
You can't imagine anything scarier than him getting hurt, can you? But cleaning your pet at home can have a detrimental effect on his health. So in this article, we'll show you what to look out for when you're cleaning, so you can make sure you're doing the right thing: a happy, healthy four-legged friend with a clean home!
You could unknowingly poison your pet
Many dog and cat owners make sure they clean regularly at home because a pet can get a little extra dirt and fur. But have you ever considered that you might be doing them harm? Your four-legged friend has a much more refined sense of smell, and its skin (fur) comes into direct contact with surfaces.
Walking on the floor can damage its paws with harsh cleaning products, but it can also lick them off during cleaning. In this respect, cats are the most at risk, as they clean regularly, but as a dog owner you'll probably see your little friend licking his paws a lot.
Not to mention that, while searching for morsels, he may lick up toxic substances from the floor or even find the entire cleaning kit in his curiosity. The number one rule, then, is to keep your regular cleaning products well locked away in a safe place.
How can you tell if there's a problem?
Signs of poisoning can include vomiting, poor co-ordination, diarrhoea. It can also manifest itself in less obvious symptoms such as lethargy or stomach pain - although your pet can't tell you if something is wrong, as a loving pet owner you'll know something's wrong.
But it doesn't have to be poisoning - your pet could be allergic to certain ingredients just as much as you are. You can tell by signs such as sneezing, a patch of shed hair, red spots on the body or sore paws.
If you notice any of these signs on your pet, take them to the vet immediately! But of course, the aim is always prevention, so let's get to that:
How can you protect your pet when cleaning?
For the health of your pet, do everything you can to minimise the risk factors. We'll also give you some tips on how to do this, from conscious shopping to specific precautions.
Look at the ingredients!
We've written before about how many toxic ingredients in conventional cleaning products can put your health at risk. The risk is even higher for your little one, because you can't explain to them that they shouldn't go near it because it's toxic - and also because they have smaller lungs and a different metabolism. If you see any of the following on the label of a cleaning product, don't buy it: bleach, ammonia, chlorine, isopropyl alcohol, phenol, formaldehyde.
Your pet should not be there.
“If your phone rings while you're cleaning and you run to answer it, your dog or cat may start playing with the mop water, possibly swallowing or knocking it over. When you're cleaning, just get on with the cleaning.” – take the advice of Dr Barbara Hodges, President of the HSVMA Veterinary Medical Association.
If you use conventional cleaning products, it's best if your four-legged friend is not even in the room during the process. This is relatively easy to do when cleaning the bathroom, for example, but keep an eye on the areas he likes. Find something for him to do in another room and close the door on him! But this alone is not enough, as the chemicals in conventional cleaning products will remain in the air. Make sure you air him out before you let him back in the room.
Wait for all surfaces to dry!
Keep in mind that your paw is much closer to the cleaned surfaces than you are. Do not let him into the room until everything is completely dry. But this doesn't just apply to the floor cleaner, who may be at nose level with the coffee table, the TV cabinet or even the lower shelves. It's worth wiping them down with lukewarm water once more after cleaning. In fact, you can see from the above quote why chemical-free mops are a better choice.
And that brings us to our most useful tip:
Switch to natural cleaning products!
“It's best to use the cleanest, greenest solutions possible when cleaning at home.” – says Dr Blutinger, a doctor at the BluePearl Animal Clinic in the US.
Eco-cleaners are just as effective as the conventional versions, but they are chemical-free, so they're safe to use around your pet. So you're better off buying natural, animal-friendly products from the shops. These are sure to contain ingredients that won't cause any problems for your four-legged friend.
Examples of such ingredients are universal miracle drugs, citric acid and acetic acid. You can use these as general surface cleaners, disinfectants, degreasers, window cleaners - so you can clean every nook and cranny of your home without risking your paws' health with chemicals. In our last article, we gave you some great tips on how to make the most of natural cleaning products. If you missed it, catch up quickly: here are the big guns for spring cleaning.