5 Cleaning Products That Could Harm Your Dog


By Elizabeth Xu

Dogs fill your home with love—and muddy paw prints, smelly toys and globs of fur stuck to your floors and all your furniture. For the sake of your sanity, and general sanitary reasons, cleaning a home with dogs is not optional.

Whether you have a new pet or you’ve been a dog owner for years, you may not have considered how your cleaning products affect your pets. Learn more about the products that can cause your dog harm and some simple, dog-friendly solutions that work just as well.

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Why Some Cleaning Products Might Harm Your Dog
Many traditional cleaning products contain chemicals that could harm your dog in a number of ways. Bleach, ammonia, chlorine, formaldehyde, phenol and isopropyl alcohol—all of which are used often in cleaning products—can all be harmful, says Dr. Rachel Barrack of Animal Acupuncture in New York. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to tell when cleaning products have harmed a dog.

“Signs of poison vary depending on what the product is and how it was contacted,” Barrack says. “If it is something that was from direct contact, it can cause a rash or a burn on the skin. If the harmful ingredient was ingested, it can cause lethargy, malaise, seizures, coma, vomiting, diarrhea and even death.”

Common symptoms of cleaning product irritation in pets can also include skin and eye irritation or breathing problems for asthmatic animals brought on by strong fumes, says Dr. Cathy Alinovi, a retired holistic veterinarian in Indiana.

Floor Cleaners
Where does your dog spend a lot of time? On the floor. It’s probably an area you use various cleaning products on, too. “If [the product is] something you wouldn’t put in your mouth, then you need to make sure it’s not anywhere dogs will lick,” Alinovi says, noting that dogs do sometimes lick floors.

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Toilet Bowl Cleaners

If your dog has a habit of drinking out of the toilet, you should consider what you use to clean it. Toilet bowl cleaners that clip on to the edge of the toilet or cleaners that are put in the back of the tank both pose a risk because the chemicals could burn your dog’s mouth and throat, Alinovi says.

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Image: racorn / via Shutterstock

Fabric Softeners
According to the ASPCA, fabric-softening sheets, especially unused ones, contain detergents that could harm your dog. If too many are ingested, oral ulcers, vomiting and intestinal blockage may occur.

Counter Cleaners
Cleaners used on counters are potentially harmful, especially if your dog is known for counter-surfing. Additionally, kitchen cleaners that come in a spray bottle have the potential to travel through the air and get into your pet’s water bowl, Alinovi says.

Image: Andrey_Kuzmin / via Shutterstock

Air Fresheners
Although not technically used to clean your home, air fresheners can unfortunately have a negative impact on your dog, Alinovi says. This includes candles, air freshener sprays and plug-in air fresheners, which can all cause problems for dogs with allergies, she says. Instead, she suggests making your own potpourri out of cloves, dried rose petals and fruits, or squeezing lemons or limes to give your home a fresh citrus scent. “It’s good for the environment, it’s good for your wallet and it’s good for the nose,” she says.

Image: Andrey_Kuzmin / via Shutterstock

Image: Soloviova Liudmyla / via Shutterstoc

Safer Cleaning Alternatives
While certain chemicals might have a negative effect on your dog, most cleaning products are okay to use in homes with pets as long as you follow the directions on the package, according to the ASPCA. More pet-friendly alternatives do exist, however, and can be simple to make with products you probably have in your home.

Alinovi uses apple cider vinegar to clean her home. Using a 1:1 ratio of vinegar to water, the mixture can be used in laundry, on windows and to wipe down counters, she says. Tougher messes might need a less diluted ratio, but that might lead to a stronger vinegar smell in your home.

Baking soda is another product that can be used for cleaning when mixed with water, and is good for areas where scrubbing’s required, like the toilet, Alinovi says.

Of course, you don’t need to make your own cleaning products to get safer ones these days. In general, newer cleaners that claim to be environmentally-friendly are also pet-safe because they’re made from vinegar-based solutions, Alinovi says. She adds that it’s important to keep in mind that any cleaning product, even natural ones, may cause your pet to have an unexpected reaction or allergy. Be sure to check with your veterinarian if you have question about any specific cleaning products.



I was intrigued when I saw this article.  I thought the information was concise and had very unusual information.  I knew that household chemicals needed to be stored away from tiny hands, but I never gave much thought to chemicals and my dog.  I know some dogs can drink from the toilet water so I have never used the tablets that clean the bowl with each flush. I can understand how fabric softener sheets can cause multiple problems, but I never realized that air freshener sprays and plug-ins could harm a pet.  I used to use them both all of the time.  I now use the suggestions in the article to add fragrance in my home.The home made pot potpourri of dried fruits and roses with squeezed lemons . The clean fresh fragrance totally surprised me.

I had one terribly scary incident involving chemical cleaners.  I have a garbage disposal in my kitchen sink.  When I was in the grocery store I saw a chemical cleaner for the inside of the disposal.   It was a package of small balls with the chemicals inside each individual ball. I opened the package and used the first ball. It seemed to work well, but i was left with an open package of these quarter size balls.  I placed the package in my junk drawer in the kitchen. One day when my 9 year old grand daughter was visiting me, she went into the drawer to get a pencil. She did not realize that the package was open and the balls went flying all over the kitchen.  Frantically we searched and picked up the balls as we found them.  I put them in a sealed zip lock bag and placed the bag in one of the kitchen closets.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  No harm – no foul.

OOPS, boy was I wrong.  Several days later my grand daughter saw Bella (my mobility service dog) throwing something on the floor.   I went over to her and was horrified to see one of the disposal balls empty – no chemicals inside, all that was left was the flat disc.  It was too early for my vet to be open, so I scooped up the empty disc and my dog and rushed over to the local 24 hour Animal Hospital.  I was panic stricken.  My service dog is my best friend and I depend on her for safe mobility.  I also grabbed the end of the original packaging which contained the list of chemicals.  Thank goodness I kept that in the package.  After a call to Poison Control Center, the vet was able to put her on a regimen of medications.  Interestingly enough, the first thing that came to my mind, was Ipecac syrup to make her throw up. WRONG!!!! The package said DO NOT vomit after ingestion. It could cause more damage due to the caustic nature of the chemicals.  Poison Control and the hospital vet reassured me that due to her size, there would be no lingering problems as long as I give her the medications as prescribed.  One interesting aside that I was unaware of,  was the $75.00 charge for the Poison Control contact.  I did not know that there is a charge related to contacting them.  Bella is fine now and I learned my lesson.   I now use oranges and lemons to freshen the garbage disposal naturally.



Well that is my story for now.   I learned there are ways to get better results using natural substances instead of chemical based agents.  I hope you have learned a little something from both the article and my experience.


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