Poisonous Household Products

Have you ever wondered if a particular household cleaning product or human medication is poisonous to your pets? The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) has provided the following guide for knowing which cleaning products, human medications and cosmetic items to keep out of your pet’s reach. Please remember that this guide is for general information only, and is not intended to help assess or manage animal exposures, or any subsequent time-sensitive medical issues. If you suspect your pet has been exposed to any poisonous substances, contact your veterinarian or call APCC’s hotline at (888) 426-4435 immediately.

Household Products

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Bleach
Pet parents are often curious about the risks associated with cleaning their pets’ cages and toys with bleach.

The bottom line is this: cleaning your pet’s cage or toy with a properly diluted bleach solution, followed by a thorough rinsing and airing out, is not expected to cause harm. If the odor of bleach seems overwhelming, open windows and use fans to air the room.

There are many cleaning products on the market, with a variety of different ingredients for cleaners, with varying degrees of safety. Always follow label directions for usage. After cleaning, please dispose of unused or dirty solutions, and clean and put away cleaning implements like mops. If you have questions about the appropriate selection or application of a product, please contact your veterinarian or the manufacturer before cleaning.

Carpet Fresheners
Proper use of carpet deodorizing products should not cause significant harm or injury to pets. Should your pet accidentally come in contact with the freshly applied powder, we recommend washing the paws with mild soap and water to avoid minor skin irritation.

Minor ingestions of carpet freshener powder generally results in a mild stomach upset. If a small amount is inhaled, minor respiratory irritation may occur, resulting in sneezing, coughing, or a runny nose. Because of this, it is a good idea to continue to keep your dog out of the room until after you have vacuumed up the powder.

Carpet Shampoo
Most carpet cleaning products can be used in pet households. Allow the carpet to dry before allowing pets into the area. This will help to prevent the risk of skin irritation or gastrointestinal upset.

Essential Oils
Cats are especially sensitive to essential oils, and effects such as gastrointestinal upset, central nervous system depression and even liver damage could occur if ingested in significant quantities. Inhalation of the oils could lead to aspiration pneumonia. There are significant variations in toxicity among specific oils. Based on this, we would not recommend using essential oils in areas where your pets have access, unless pets are supervised or the use of the oil is approved by your veterinarian.

Fabric Softener Sheets
Fabric softeners contain cationic detergents. These detergents have the potential to cause significant signs like drooling, vomiting, oral and esophageal ulcers and fever. These clinical signs do require treatment by a veterinarian. Oral ulcers can develop if a pet chews on a new, unused dryer sheet. Used sheets have minimal amounts of detergent. If an animal ingests enough sheets, used or dry, an intestinal blockage may occur.

Febreze
Contrary to rumors alleging that Febreze causes serious illness or death in pets, our veterinary toxicology experts at APCC regard Febreze fabric freshener products to be safe for use in households with pets.

As with any product, it is important that you always follow label instructions for use. However, should your pet accidentally come into contact with Febreze when it is still wet, we would not anticipate problems beyond mild skin irritation (which can occur with any product in animals with sensitive skin) or minor stomach upset, if it is ingested.

Grout
Gout sealers vary widely in toxicity, from non-toxic to alkaline corrosive. Alkaline products, like cationic detergents, can cause drooling, vomiting, oral and esophageal ulcers. Confirm the ingredients in the brand you are using, and call the APCC or your veterinarian if your pet ingests some of the sealer. Dried, or cured, sealer generally only causes a mild upset stomach if ingested.

Swiffer Wet Jet
Swiffer Wet Jet products do not contain cleaning agents in large enough quantities to present serious health risks to pets. An internet rumor once alleged that these products contained anti-freeze and were responsible for the death of a dog. Our toxicology experts evaluated the product and determined it doesn't contain ethylene glycol from antifreeze, and is appropriate to use in homes with pets.

Like any product, however, it's important to read and follow label instructions to avoid unnecessary exposure. As with any number of cleaning products, mild skin irritation or stomach upset may occur if pets walk through a still-wet floor or lick any spilled solution.

Toilet Cleaning Tablets
Most toilet bowl cleaning tablets would not be expected to cause problems beyond minor stomach upset, should a dog take a drink of the diluted water in the toilet bowl. Bacterial-related gastrointestinal problems could occur from drinking stagnant toilet water, however, so it is still a good idea to discourage your dog from imbibing from the commode.

Vinegar and Water
A solution of vinegar and water is used as an inexpensive alternative to commercial cleaning agents. Vinegar is typically acidic, and vinegar (depending on the solution concentration) acts as an irritant. Ingesting concentrated, or undiluted, vinegar can cause vomiting, diarrhea, oral irritation and pain.

Most cleaning agents can be used safely in homes, as long as label recommendations are followed.

Human Medications and Cosmetics

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Adderall
Adderall, as well as many ADD drugs, contains amphetamines, which stimulate the central nervous and cardiovascular systems. Amphetamines can be very harmful or even deadly to pets if enough are ingested, potentially causing hyperactivity, tremors and seizures, fever, abnormal heart rate and rhythm, coma and even death. Please consult your veterinarian immediately if your pet has ingested one of these medications.

Petroleum Jelly
Petroleum Jelly is a laxative. If a sufficient dose is ingested, diarrhea is likely, and in some cases, vomiting may occur. There is a small risk of aspiration pneumonia if the pet inhales some of the product.

Aspirin, Baby Aspirin
We frequently hear from pet parents who are curious to know if low doses of these medications are safe to use on their pets as a joint and general pain reliever. There are medical conditions where aspirin is a recommended treatment. However, overdosing can result in medical conditions ranging from gastrointestinal upset to liver failure. We strongly advise owners to never give their pets any medication without first consulting with their regular veterinarian. Many drugs, including aspirin, can cause serious or potentially life-threatening problems, depending on the dose involved.

If you feel that your dog needs pain relief for any reason, we highly recommend that you get in touch with your veterinarian—if you have not already—so that your dog can be evaluated. You vet can direct you regarding the best dose to use or, if necessary, can prescribe a different pain reliever. With advances in veterinary medicine, arthritis and other joint conditions are typically treated with more than one medication and treatment (like lasers).

Avon Skin So Soft
We’ve received a number of inquiries about whether household items like Skin So Soft are safe alternatives to flea prevention regimens prescribed by a veterinarian. We recommend you consult your veterinarian before trying any household products for flea prevention purposes. A vet-recommended flea prevention product will likely be more effective and safe.

Bar Soap and Face Wash
Most bar soaps and face cleansers contain detergents, which, if ingested, can cause gastrointestinal irritation (including vomiting and diarrhea). If the soap also contains essential oils (such as lavender, for example), it is possible that minor central nervous system depression could occur, depending on the concentration of oils and other circumstances of exposure. Certain soaps are made with glycerin or other emollients, which can have a cathartic effect—causing loose stools or diarrhea. If gastrointestinal signs become persistent, they could lead to dehydration. If a large portion or entire bar of soap were to be ingested, it could potentially lead to obstruction in the animal’s gastrointestinal tract. Because of these concerns, we advise keeping your soaps and cleansers in an area that is not accessible to your dog.

Breath Fresheners
Human breath mints and breath fresheners are not safe to use on your dog. Certain breath strips contain menthol, which can be irritating to the tissues of the mouth and the gastrointestinal tract. Some breath-freshening products could also contain the sweetener xylitol, which has the potential to cause a sharp drop in a dog's blood sugar, resulting in depression, loss of coordination and seizures; in some cases, this could even result in liver damage. If you wish to control your dog’s breath problem, we recommend talking with your veterinarian to discuss a safe and appropriate oral hygiene program.

Cigarettes and Nicotine Patches
Cigarettes and other tobacco products contain nicotine, which has the potential to produce severe vomiting, depression, an elevated heart rate, decrease in blood pressure, seizures, respiratory failure and, in severe cases, even death.

E-cigarette liquid (known as e-liquid or e-juice) is used to recharge the cartridge for an e-cigarette. The amount of nicotine in these bottles could easily kill a dog if the contents were ingested. Often the liquid is flavored, making the product more appealing. As such, we urge pet parents to keep all tobacco products out of their pets’ reach. If accidental ingestion occurs, seek veterinary help immediately.

Grapeseed Oil
Although we have talked about the safety risks that grapes can pose to pets, we have no data indicating risks from exposure to grapeseed extract or oil. Most nutritional supplements and other products containing grapeseed oil or extract contain relatively small amounts, and we’ve yet to note any serious problems.

Ibuprofen and Naproxen
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) include over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and naproxen. Pets metabolize and eliminate these drugs differently than humans do. Because of the difference in elimination, even small amounts can cause significant medical problems in dogs, including gastrointestinal ulcers and kidney failure. Please consult your veterinarian before giving any over-the-counter medications for pain.

Kaopectate and Pepto Bismol
These products contain salicylates, which are similar to aspirin. Depending on the circumstances of exposure, large enough doses of bismuth salicylate could cause effects similar to aspirin poisoning. These include gastric irritation or ulceration, bleeding problems, seizures and liver damage.

If you suspect that your pet may have an upset stomach, or may not be feeling well, do not administer either of these (or similar) medications without consulting your veterinarian.

Mosquito Repellent
Pet owners should never use any product on their animal that is not specifically created for them. Certain mosquito repellents that are made for human beings contain DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). The use of DEET on pets is not recommended, as dogs and cats are very sensitive to it and may develop neurological problems (such as tremors, seizures and death) if the product is used on them.

If you want to keep mosquitoes away from your dog, we suggest asking your veterinarian for an appropriate product to use.

Pseudoephedrine (and other nasal decongestants)
Depending on the circumstances of exposure, pseudoephedrine can be very harmful or even deadly to pets, and therefore we would not advise giving it to your dog. Decongestants are frequently found in products that contain antihistamines. If your veterinarian has prescribed an antihistamine, please read the label carefully to be sure that the only active ingredient is the one your veterinarian recommended.

Sorbitol
Sorbitol is a plant-based sugar alcohol that’s used as a sweetener in many products, including sugar-free foods, laxatives and other medications. Due to its laxative capabilities, loose stools or diarrhea can occur if consumed in large doses. However, the amount of sorbitol in pet toothpaste used for brushing your pooch’s teeth is not likely to be an issue.

Topical Creams/Ointments
As with lotions and oils, pet parents should use caution after immediate application of topical creams and ointments to their own skin. Always read the label so you know which ingredients are included. Some ingredients found in creams and ointments can cause serious, even life threatening, clinical signs. The following are ingredients that can cause serious clinical signs requiring medical intervention: baclofen, flurbiprofen, diclofenac, ketamine, lidocaine, dibucaine, 5-fluorouracil, calcipotriene as well as others. In some cases, small exposures (such as a pet licking the owner’s skin after recent application of the product) have resulted in severe clinical health and gastrointestinal issues. When applying these products, keep your skin covered and wear gloves during application or wash your hands thoroughly following use.