Household cleaning products and your pet: What you should know about

By Dr. Justine Lee, DVM, DACVECC, DABT

Institutional Products NEWToday we’re going to talk about certain “spring cleaning” products that are very dangerous to pets. Now, keep in mind that most household surface cleaning products only result in minor clinical signs of vomiting and diarrhea; these are products that you typically spray on windows and kitchen counters to wipe them down.

However, there are certain cleaning products in your house can be really dangerous to dogs and cats. Products that pose the biggest corrosive or caustic danger threat are:

  • Drain cleaners
  • Pool chemicals
  • Concentrated dishwashing chemicals
  • Lime-removal products
  • Oven cleaners
  • Concentrated toilet cleaners

Corrosive or caustic products can cause chemical burns when ingested or when accidentally exposed to the fur and skin. If your dog or cat is accidentally exposed to these chemicals, it requires immediate first aid care at home and a visit to your veterinarian right away.

Clinical signs of corrosive or caustic injury includes:

  • Red, raw skin
  • Blistering of the skin
  • Pain
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Severe drooling
  • Not eating
  • Fever
  • Pawing at the eyes
  • Tearing of the eyes
  • Lethargy or malaise

Untreated, it can result in severe tissue damage (like rupturing the esophagus or stomach!) or even death.

So, what do you do if your dog or cat accidentally is exposed to a corrosive or caustic substance?

  • First, safely get your pet to a safe area (to prevent them from ingesting more!).
  • Carefully gather the container or substance to bring to the veterinary hospital or to describe to the veterinarian (protect yourself by using gloves).
  • Contact your veterinarian for further immediate recommendations.
  • If the product was ingested or chewed on, flush your pet’s mouth out with tap water, making sure that they don’t choke on it or inhale it. You can use a turkey baster or even a kitchen sink hose; however, never stick the house down your pet’s throat or mouth, as they can choke on this. Make sure your dog’s nose is pointed down towards the ground to prevent excess water from being swallowed or inhaled.
  • Attempt to flush for 10-15 minutes.
  • If your cat was affected, offer something tasty like canned tuna water or chicken broth to help flush out the mouth.
  • Once you begin these steps, seek immediate veterinary attention.

If there was dermal exposure of a corrosive or caustic substance (e.g., onto the skin or fur):

  • Liberally flush the affected area with water, using protective gloves or gear to keep you safe.
  • Safely gather the container or substance to bring to the veterinary hospital or to describe to the veterinarian.
  • Seek immediate veterinary attention.

When in doubt, keep these dangerous cleaning chemicals out of reach of your pets (and kids!). Use childproof locks and make sure to lock your pets OUT of the area when you are cleaning.


As previously published on on April 30, 2013.