As the time is here for spring cleaning and companies offer more environmentally friendly alternatives to toxic cleaners, veterinarians say pet owners should keep in mind that what's green to a human can be dangerous - even deadly - to animals.
"People expose their animals without even realizing the risk," says Dr Karl Jandrey, who works in the emergency and critical care units at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California, Davis. "That's the most common thing that happens when you come to our emergency room - the clients put their pets at risk because they were unaware of how significant the damage could be."
Most household cleaners are safe if used as directed on labels, but pet owners who make their own cleansers using natural ingredients don't have the warnings or instructions that come with commercial products.
Cats, for example, can get stomachaches from essential oils added for orange, lemon or peppermint scents in cleaners, says Dr Camille DeClementi, a senior toxicologist at the Animal Poison Control Center run by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Urbana, Illinois.
Most commercial green products are safe for animals, DeClementi says, but owners should still exercise the same precautions as with chemical alternatives, such as keeping pets away from an area being cleaned, not using sprays directly on a pet and making sure that dogs don't chew on the products.
If a product says "Keep out of reach of children," keep it away from pets too, DeClementi says.
Caroline Golon, an Ohio mother of two children under age 5 and the owner of two Persian cats, says she became concerned about cleaning products before her children were born, when she noticed how often the cats jumped between floors and counters.
The Columbus resident uses only unscented green products or vinegar and water to clean, a water-only steam mop on floors and washes the cats' dishes and litter boxes with hot water and green dish soap.
"There are varying degrees of green, and there are a lot of mainstream brands now that have a green version. You have to do a little research to see what you like best," says Golon, a pet blogger.
The "green" label on products can be misleading because it still can be dangerous, Jandrey adds. "Some still have their own toxicities. In general, they probably are a little less toxic, but not free of toxic potential. They just have a need for a larger dose to cause the same kind of symptoms," he says.
He cited antifreeze as an example. The pet-friendly version of antifreeze, propylene glycol, is "still an antifreeze product. It's still intoxicating to patients, our dogs and cats. It's just not as intoxicating as ethylene glycol."
It takes more of the propylene glycol to be as deadly as the ethylene glycol, "but it is still intoxicating though it might say pet-friendly in the ads or on the bottle," Jandrey says.
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