I recently received an e-mail from a friend of mine that said her parakeets died the day after they finished caulking all their windows with silicone caulk in preparation for winter. This led me to research what other home improvement projects can kill our pets. How can we keep our pets from harm while we go about our business of home repairs and maintenance? I discovered that not only are chemical fumes harmful to our pets, but many of the plants used in modern landscaping are poisonous, as well as some types of ground cover mulch. Here are some tips I found that may help save the life of your pet or the pet of a friend as you complete your next home improvement project.
Always read the label.
Many product labels are printed with, “Caution: Harmful to Children and Pets”. Be cautious when you are using any kind of paint, sealers, glue, etc., as they can be very harmful to children and pets. Take label information very seriously. Reptiles and birds are very susceptible to fumes caused by paints and lacquers as reptiles breathe through their skins and birds have hallow bones that can absorb fumes at a deadly rate. If you are using a product that has fumes, move your pet to a completely different section of the home or even take the pet to a neighbor until the fumes dissipate.
Trust your instincts.
If you are doing a project that generates a lot of dust and you are wearing a paper mask to protect your self – do not forget about your pets. If you need protection, so does your pet. Remove your pet from the area before you begin working, as their lungs are usually smaller and more easily damaged than ours are. We moved our pet snake, a five-year old California Coastal Rosy Boa, to the garage while we painted the bedroom; the snake did not mind one little bit.
Stoop to your pet’s level.
When you are doing any type of home maintenance project, try to visual things from your pet’s (and toddler’s) point of view. Get down on all fours and see what they would find interesting. Cedar chips and other ground mulch materials can be very harmful to cats and dogs, as they like to dig in it and chew on it. If nails and bolts are on the ground from your roofing project, don’t forget to pick them up. Pets don’t wear shoes and a trip to the vet for a nail stuck in the paw would be heartbreaking. If dirt has fallen into the dog bowl while cleaning the rain gutters, empty the dish and give Fido fresh water. Remember to put your tools away too; they make interesting chew toys.
Be careful with all household chemicals.
Just as home repair products can be harmful, many of our most commonly used household products are hazardous. Nail polish remover, acrylic nail chemicals, super glue, bleach, aerosol products, and cooking on old Teflon pans can release chemicals into the air. To us, fumes may cause a temporary annoyance such as coughing, watery eyes and scratch throats. But to our pets, whose lungs are smaller and whose liver cannot filter chemicals as quickly as our full size liver can; the temporary irritation may create a much longer lasting illness.
Watch where you throw your trash and debris.
Keeping your pets safe during the project is important, but keeping your pet safe during cleanup and once the project is completed is also a consideration. Do not store old rags near a pet area; the fumes could be harmful. Watch where you throw away cleaning cloths; dogs like to play and tear up rags, towels, rugs, coats, shoes, boots – anything they can get their teeth into. Prevent injuries to your pets by discarding things where the pets can’t reach them. Don’t leave old liquids where animals can drink them. Dogs and other small animals have died from drinking old antifreeze. It has a sweet taste and an interesting smell. Keep this in mind whenever you are discarding any type of liquid. Old paint, cans of lacquer, even old paint brushes can be interesting to pets and children.
Keeping these five points in mind as you complete your home improvement projects may save the life of a treasured family pet and prevent unnecessary vet bills. Completing your home improvement projects safely will delight all family members, even little Tweety Bird!