You might not realize it but we all use a lot of chemically-laced products in our households every day, and many of them might be toxic for our dogs. While we are resistant to these toxins, our canines are much more vulnerable to the chemicals because of their small bodies and different metabolic functions.
Here's a list of hidden toxins in your house that are health hazards for your pets, including some alternative products you can use instead to lessen chemical presence in your home:
1. Some Flea Prevention and Flea Removal Products
It's very common in the U.S. to use an abundance of different flea control chemicals on a daily basis. Unfortunately, even if they are allowed to be sold, not all of them are safe and most contain high amounts of chemicals that may be toxic. FDA now warns that some cause nerve reactions in dogs.
EPA has evaluated many flea and tick treatments, and found that while some brands can be used safely, some are still dangerous, most commonly negatively affecting dogs' skin, gastrointestinal (digestive), and nervous systems. There are certain precautions that must be taken. And even products labeled as “natural” may still be harmful to dogs since some of the ingredients are culled from synthetic sources (i.e. they're not that natural).
If you prefer to use essential oils like Tea Tree or Pennyroyal, these ingredients can still be toxic to pets when used incorrectly. Essential oils can build up in your dog's bloodstream when applied to the skin in higher than safe dosage, and some breeds have a harder time metabolizing and processing these in their body so they get an allergic reaction to it.
As an alternative and for a pet-safer option, you might find electric flea traps more useful and with no chemicals. These are fairly affordable and easily available in stores. The two most popular electric flea traps are BioCare and Victor by Safer Brand.
Also, you may sprinkle diatomaceous earth around your home or let it sit on your carpet, sofa, the dog's bed and areas before cleaning it off with the vacuum. Gardeners use this off-white powder to control insect and bug populations, and it will also work for fleas in your home as a good alternative to chemical products. According to the Ecological Agriculture Projects, this is one of the non-toxic pesticides out there you can use around dogs.
2. Food Containers
There are several dog supplies that are very common in pet owners' households but may be cancerous or toxic to dogs, such as dog water/food bowls and particularly some dog food containers. This is because they contain Bisphenol A (BPA).
The BPA chemical has been linked to the disruption of the hormones in the human's body that may result in diabetes, heart disease and infertility, according to a report from the National Institute of Environmental Health Services. And if it's harmful to us, then it's just as harmful to pets, if not more so.
Moreover, recent data reports from the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) also found that pet food bowls are the 4th dirtiest item in pet owners' kitchens, making our dogs sick, and they are ridden with bacteria (plastic bowls are the biggest offenders).
As a pet-safe alternative to plastic dog food bowls, it's always better to use stainless steel feeding bowls because they aren't as prone to bacteria and there's no risk of them being made with Bisphenol A. As for dog food containers, there's a number of pet-safe dog food storage options that are non-toxic. In general, it's best to use glass containers for storing both your dog's homemade leftover food and dry kibble (or wet dog food).
3. Garden Sprays and Baits
Herbicides and insecticides are loaded with chemicals that may have a significantly negative health effect on dogs if ingested. These sprays or granules keep slugs, snails, bugs, and insects off plants but it can be fatal to pets. Hence, it's always advisable to keep these in storage areas that are inaccessible to curious dogs.
The chemicals in these garden products can cause muscle weakness, anorexia, vomiting, and seizures in dogs. Fortunately, there are plenty of pet-safe garden supplies that aren't toxic to dogs and are just as effective as the chemically-infused pest control products. You can get these online or at home stores.
4. De-Icing Salts
With the winter weather already on our doorstep, many homes across the country will be using de-icing salts and snow/ice melting products to clean their driveways and doorsteps. However, you need to keep an eye out for your dog when you've sprinkled this chemical on the ground, and better yet pick pet-safe ice melting products instead that won't be toxic to dogs.
Typically, dogs will often try to lick the ice melting salt they see on the ground. Moreover, when your pooch walks over the de-icing salt, it sticks to their paws which they might lick when they are lounging back inside the house.
Ingesting these chemicals can cause nausea, vomiting and drooling in dogs. If swallowed in larger amounts, it can lead the elevation of the electrolyte levels that can make the dog weak and lethargic. The dog may also experience stomach problems. Again, always choose pet-safe non-toxic ice melting products that won't be as harmful to your dog, and when you use anti-icing salt around your property, take care to:
- Let the dog wear doggy boots if you go on a walk during winter;
- Wash your dog's paws after they've been outside;
- Use cat litter or sand instead of de-icing salts;
- And always look at the label of the de-icing salt -it's safer for pets if the ingredient is potassium chloride.
Do you still use mothballs for your cabinet? According to an article from the National Pesticide Information Center, this household product's active ingredient is actually insecticide, which going back to our above points, may be toxic to dogs.
What's even more dangerous is that young children and pets might easily mistake mothballs for candies and eat it. Dogs might be curious of its smell as well and sniff the fumes of the mothballs when it's actually toxic during long-term exposure.
Always keep mothballs in an enclosed and tight container to prevent children and dogs from accidentally taking it. If you'd like to protect your clothes from moths and other bacteria, consider using cedar wrapped in cheesecloth or buy non-toxic moth traps that are pheromone based and are safe for pets (like the GreenWay one).
6. Home Fragrances and Air Fresheners
A home that smells nice can be inviting and cozy especially if you're expecting guests or visitors for upcoming holiday parties. But many home fragrances often used in households contain chemicals that can disrupt the function of the endocrine and reproductive functions of the dog's body. It also releases carcinogens in the air that can negative affect your pet's health, even when released in small doses.
It's best not to use home fragrances in a home with pets at all. But if you do, make sure that you have a good ventilation system at home if you like using these products. Better yet, try making your own natural air freshener using a mix of essential oils, water, and witch hazel. Simmer some spices, herbs, and fruits in your stove top as it will give off a lovely smell in your kitchen and it'll be completely natural and safe for the dog.
7. Driveway Sealant
Coal tar might be effective in sealing your driveway against water or rain. It will prevent potholes and cracks that may cause accidents if left under-repaired, and many home owners choose to use driveway sealants by themselves.
However, coal tar contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) that can cause genetic mutations or cancer in dogs. You may not be aware that the chemicals of coal tar can end up in your local water supply, having you and your pets consume it. Or, your dog can walk on the driveway with coal tar, drink from a puddle in the ground and lick their paws.
If you need to seal your driveway, spend a little extra cash on a non-coal tar-based sealant. Many stores have actually banned this product for its harmful health effects on humans but to be sure that it's safe, read the label of what you're buying.
There's a good number of household products that contain toxins and may be cancerous to dogs, or at least harmful in a way of poisoning your pet. That said, sometimes it's unavoidable to use these products. So if you have to use them, or if the alternatives are too expensive for your budget, make sure that you keep these products contained and out of reach of your dogs (and children).
Always look out for where your dog is when you're cleaning, gardening or doing garage work using these chemical products, or at least temporarily contain your dogs until it's safer to go out. Don't delay a visit to the vet if you think your dog has had an adverse reaction to the chemicals. It's always to be better to be safe than sorry.