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Bleach and Other Household Chemicals That Are Bad for Pets

GH has been an online writer for over six years. Her work often focuses on pet safety and ownership, among other things.

Read on to learn about some of the worst household chemicals for pets. This article will help you better pet-proof your home and ensure safety for your little friends.

Read on to learn about some of the worst household chemicals for pets. This article will help you better pet-proof your home and ensure safety for your little friends.

There are literally thousands of chemicals on the market that we use in our homes every day. We know that they are bad for us, and we know we need to keep them locked away from small children for their safety. However, we rarely stop to consider the effects that some of these substances have on our pets.

We know that we're not supposed to be eating things like bleach and pesticides, but we sometimes forget that Rover has to walk on the same floors that we've just used pine-sol on and that he puts his paws in his mouth.

In this article, we'll go over a list of 10 things you should try not to use if you have pets. (Or, if you must, you should at least rethink your use.)

Always make sure that you have a contingency plan. Know your vet's telephone number as well as off-hours emergency veterinary services contact numbers should your pet become sick from any of these chemicals.

10 Household Chemicals That Are Bad for Pets

  1. Bleach
  2. Anti-freeze
  3. Kerosene, gasoline, and other flammable liquids
  4. Pesticides
  5. Pine-Sol
  6. Laundry Detergent
  7. Fertilizer
  8. Carbolic Acid
  9. Alcohol
  10. Xylitol
Did this guy eat your sugarless gum?

Did this guy eat your sugarless gum?

10 of the Worst Chemicals for Your Pet

  1. Bleach – Common household bleach is a known caustic chemical and can be very dangerous to humans. Though animals generally will not ingest something that smells as bad as bleach does, your pet can and will get it on their paws and fur and will eventually lick it off of themselves. Bleach can give an animal convulsions, nausea and vomiting, and can cause death. So don't use it in or on areas where it can come into contact with any part of your pet's body. Also, do not use bleach in bedding, especially if your pet is a chewer.
  2. Anti-freeze – This chemical has a sweet smell, which makes it attractive to some animals. This chemical is extra bad for dogs because a fairly small amount can kill them. Anti-freeze breaks down in the body, attacking the internal organs. Pets ingesting anti-freeze will need immediate veterinary care and will require very close supervision.
  3. Kerosene, gasoline, and other flammable liquids – Though it is very rare that an animal will ingest any of these substances because of their highly toxic smell, it is a semi-regular occurrence that the chemicals will be spilled on floors and not cleaned up properly. Again, your pet can get them on their paws or fur and end up with the nasty stuff in their mouths. Always clean any spills of this nature very carefully to help your pet avoid being sick. Motor oil is another concern. If you have to let your pet into your garage, always make sure that all spills are kept clean.
  4. Pesticides – Some bug killers, including some flea and tick treatments, can be very bad for your pet if they are eaten. Flea and tick collars are toxic if eaten, so always make sure that, if your pet wears them, that they are put on properly and all excess material on the collar is trimmed off. Some flea and tick prevention medicines which include the chemical permethrin are highly toxic for cats, so always read the label on the treatment you are using to make sure it is safe for your pet. Some people use boric acid in their homes as a pest repellent. This is very toxic to animals and should never be used with a pet in the house.
  5. Pine-Sol – Pine cleaners as well as some other floor cleaning products can contain ingredients that can give your pets seizures or worse. If you must use them, make sure that the surfaces you have treated with these solutions are completely dry before your pet is allowed access to them.
  6. Laundry Detergent – Some laundry soaps can be very toxic to your pets. They contain chemicals, dyes, and fragrances. Though, for the most part, clothing and fabrics washed in regular laundry detergent are safe as most of the detergent is washed away in the rinse cycle, if your pet chews your clothing or its bedding, you should opt for a more pet-friendly detergent.
  7. Fertilizer – Some types of fertilizer can have disastrous consequences for your pet. Though they will likely not outright eat the stuff, this is another situation where the chemicals can be ingested because they are on the paws or the fur. If your pet can't stay out of your garden, using organic fertilizer or something without harmful chemicals is obviously safer for your pet.
  8. Carbolic Acid – This stuff is actually sometimes used as a remedy for mange, but if your pet gets it in their digestive system, they can become very sick. It can also be absorbed through the skin. Should your pet have an icky case of the mange, it's best to see your vet for a less harmful alternative.
  9. Alcohol – This may seem like an unusual addition to this list, but some pets will drink alcohol. It may be hilarious to watch your dog stumble around intoxicated, but this stuff is not good for pets. Even small amounts, when consumed by smaller animals, can be toxic. Some alcoholic beverages that don't have much of a smell are especially dangerous. So don't leave your adult beverage unattended, and don't let your friends get your pet liquored up!
  10. Xylitol – This stuff is an artificial sweetener that is often found in candy and gum. Dogs especially will eat anything that smells sweet, and this stuff is very bad for a dog's digestive system. If your pet eats too much xylitol, it can cause seizures, lethargy, and hypoglycemia.

Oddly, there has been an internet rumor for the last decade or so that tells us that there is an ingredient in Febreeze which can cause pet death. This is a myth. Febreeze has been proven safe for all pets.

There was a similar rumor about the Swiffer Wet Jet, that it contains a chemical called propylene glycol that is also found in anti-freeze. This chemical has been proven safe by the FDA and is, in fact, used as a substitute sweetener in some 'people' foods and beverages.

While ingesting propylene glycol is toxic to pets, the Swiffer Wet Jet mixture is over 90% water, and a pet will therefore not be exposed to anything near a dangerous amount.

Nemo doesn't deserve a toxic tank!

Nemo doesn't deserve a toxic tank!

Other Tips for Keeping Your Pet Safe

  • Just as you would with small children, keep all dangerous chemicals stored away where your pet cannot get them. Also, keep the packaging tightly sealed.
  • Never give your pet any 'people' medicine without consulting your vet. Just because something is safe for humans doesn't mean it is also safe for animals.
  • Some plants are poisonous to animals. Dogs can have adverse reactions to poinsettias, hemlock, English ivy, pokeweed and even tulips. Cats can become very sick from eating honeysuckle, chrysanthemums, rosemary and rubber plants, among other things. Before introducing a potted plant into your home or outdoor garden, be extra safe and check to make sure it won't make your pet sick.
  • Do not clean pet cages or aquariums with regular household cleaners. Buy special stuff from the pet store that won't make your pet sick.
  • Chemicals can leech out of plastic. Make sure everything that your pet eats or drinks out of is made from a safer material.
  • Keep disgusting things that your pet might find tasty away from your animals. This includes dirty baby diapers and feminine products. Your pet might eat them, and digesting cotton, paper and plastics is bad. Keep them tightly sealed in the trash.
  • If your dog has a taste for 'cat cookies,' look for an organic or pet-friendly cat litter. Regular cat litter has chemicals, especially fragrances, that can make your dog very sick. At the very least, make sure that the litter pan is where your dog can't reach.
  • If cat litter odor is a problem, use plain old baking soda instead of scented cat litter.

Short Informational Video on Pets and Household Chemicals

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

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© 2012 Georgie Lowery


mogie on December 06, 2016:

Very useful article. You did excellent research. Thanks!

worried on March 15, 2014:

febreze did make my dog sick. Used Mr clean regularly and this time used it with febreze. Sick can't walk. Bad product.

Georgie Lowery (author) from North Florida on May 31, 2012:


You would be surprised about the lack of vigilance that some pet owners have. I am happy to hear you're not one of them!

Thank you for commenting! :)

brenda12lynette from Utah on May 31, 2012:

My dog will eat anything so I have to make sure she does not have the chance. Thanks for the useful tips!

Jamie Sykes from Lewisville, North Carolina on May 30, 2012:

Yeah, I thought I was going to gag when I was wrestling them away from him! He just gave me a look like, "noooo! MINE!"

Georgie Lowery (author) from North Florida on May 30, 2012:

Ergh! It's nasty to us, but they're treats for them! Good doesn't he doesn't do it anymore!

Jamie Sykes from Lewisville, North Carolina on May 30, 2012:

When we first got Harley, he used to love to go trash can diving for my used feminine products. Thankfully I broke him of it FAST.

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