Many commonly used products found in our homes that we use everyday can pose a serious threat to the health of our pets. By nature, animals are very curious, especially puppies and kittens who use their mouths to discover the world. As responsible pet owners, it is up to us to be aware of harmful chemicals and take measures to make them inaccessible to our pets.  In addition, you should always check product labels and consult with your veterinarian before applying any over-the-counter product to your pet.   Some of the more commonly found dangers include chemicals used for flea and fly control, insecticides, automobile antifreeze, rodent poisons and even some household glues.

Permethrin is a common chemical approved for topical use as flea control and large animal fly control. It is also used for insect control on crops, ornamental plants and human use. Permethrin can be found in shampoos, dips, foggers, spot-on treatments and various sprays for animal use. Cats are extremely susceptible to permethrin toxicity because their liver can’t efficiently metabolize the chemical and some dogs may be sensitive as well.  Toxicity may occur from an application of a spot-on treatment or if the cat actively grooms, or comes in close physical contact with a dog that has been recently treated.  The severity of the reaction can vary with each animal. Signs to look for include muscle tremors, seizures, excess salivation, depression, vomiting, anorexia, and even death.

Organophosphates include a widely distributed group of chemicals used to control a variety of insects on crops, lawns, plants, several species of animals, and around our homes.  Organophosphates can also be found as the primary chemical in flea collars. Toxic effects can be seen following direct contact, ingestion, or inhalation of fumes. Signs to look for include muscle tremors (especially along the back, neck and top of head), weakness, depression, and seizures.  Some toxic signs may not be seen for up to 18-20 days after exposure.  Organophosphates can appear on product labels as Chlorpyrifos, Disulfoton or Rabon.

Ethylene Glycol, commonly known as Antifreeze, can be extremely toxic if ingested by your pet. Because of its sweet smell and taste, pets are naturally attracted to antifreeze. In dogs ingesting as little as 1 ½ teaspoons per pound of body weight, and ½ teaspoon per pound of body weight in cats, can be lethal.  Effects of the toxin include vomiting, depression, weakness, and rapid breathing and can be observed with in the first few hours after ingestion.  This is followed by complete kidney failure within 2 days. If ingestion is suspected, get to a veterinarian immediately! Treatment can be successful if responded to quickly.

Rodenticides, or various rat poisons can all be deadly to your pet. There are many different types of rat poison and each product will affect your pet differently. If you suspect that your pet has come in contact with any form of rat poison take the poison packaging with you to your veterinarian (not just a sample of the bait). Products such as D-con, Warf, and Prolin are anticoagulants which result in internal bleeding. Brands such as Trounce, Assault, and Vengeance cause fluid to build up around the brain and commercial products such as Quintox, Rampage, and Hyperkill result in complete kidney failure. Regardless of the product, immediate action and treatment is necessary to limit the damage caused by these toxins.  If you need to use Rodenticides in your home, consult your veterinarian in order to select one that is safest for use around your pet.

Some glues, such as Gorilla Glue, expand greatly once ingested and require surgical removal. Just one ounce of glue may expand to the size of a basketball! Therefore, always keep pets away from any area where you are using glue.

The most important rule of thumb when dealing with any chemical around your pets is this: If you’re not sure about the safety of the ingredients of any product you may be using on or around your pets, consult with your veterinarian before using.  Taking simple steps, such as storing household chemical products in secure areas and in properly marked containers, will significantly reduce the chance that your pet will come in contact with a toxic substance.

© 2010 Bethany Jordan is the owner of The DogSmith Florida Panhandle and Southern Alabama. You can reach Bethany at