Carbon monoxide poisoning is a very real threat to people and house pets. According to the US Consumer Safety Commission, about 170 people die just in America every year from the odorless, invisible gas, also known as CO. It is unknown how many pets die from carbon monoxide poisoning in America or the rest of the world. Carbon monoxide turns pet’s skin ands gums an angry red, especially with dogs. The pet then becomes drowsy, collapses and soon dies.
Although animal advocacy groups are getting the word out about pets dying in cars from carbon monoxide, they also can be killed from carbon monoxide poisoning. A carbon monoxide detector can potentially save the lives of your human and pet family. Depending on where you live, you may be required to have a carbon monoxide detector in your home.
But what about if you have a carbon monoxide detector that goes off all of the time? It eventually becomes like the boy who cried wolf. People hear so many nuisance alarms that they either do not pay attention for a real alarm or they tear the carbon monoxide detector off of the wall and into the garbage.
This is almost what happened to my family’s carbon monoxide detector back in 2005. We had placed the carbon monoxide detector in a hallway opposite the bathroom and next to the room with the kitty litter box. Also, when my dog would run by and fart, the alarm would go off.
Mom would get upset that the alarm would go off and I’d reassure her that it was just the dog farting. We’d go through the routine of opening the windows and stepping outside for a while and come back in the house to find the carbon monoxide detector completely silent. After about a year of this, Mom began to believe me.
What Can Set Off A False Alarm?
Any really strong smell can set off a nuisance alarm in a carbon monoxide detector. According to the Fire Deaprtment of New York City Foundation, these smells include perfumes, natural gas, paint, paint thinner and just about any liquid that emits eye-watering or nose-wrinkling smells. Cooking smells, which are often a lot more pleasant than those listed, can also set off a CO alarm. They also should not be placed near a ceiling fan which can blow strong smells into the alarm.
Carbon monoxide detectors need regular maintenance in order to be able to work. Regular household dust can render it useless, so dust them regularly. If you paint the wall that the carbon monoxide detector is on, remove the detector as best as you can. You do not want to paint over it. Also, turn it off until all of the paint scent is gone.
Ammonia can also set off a carbon monoxide detector. Ammonia is hard to distinguish from urine. Keeping kitty litter or small pet bedding frequently changed lowers chances of ammonia fumes drifting to the detector. Regular cage or litter cleaning is not only healthy for the pets but helps to lower nuisance alarms.
How We Handled Nuisance Alarms
We had placed the carbon monoxide detector near the bathroom and the kitty litter box room. It wasn’t only pet smells setting our detector off. Human smells were playing a role, too. Moving the detector nearby to the inside of my mother’s bedroom significantly cut down on the number of nuisance alarms. I also restricted my dog’s intake of human food and changed her brand of kibble which reduced her flatulence and helped her to lose weight.
In conclusion, if you have a carbon monoxide detector that keeps going off, it could be due to strong pet smells, especially urine. Try moving the detector to another room. Be sure to keep it as dust-free as possible. Change the batteries twice a year and the entire unit every five years and you and your pets will be safe from carbon monoxide poisoning.
US Consumer Safety Commission. “Carbon Monoxide Questions and Answers.” http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/466.html
Fire Deaprtment New York City Foundation: “Carbon Monoxide Detectors.” http://www.fdnyfoundation.org/2007/10/carbon_monoxide.php
“Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook.” Debra M. Eldredge, DVM, et al; Howell Book House; 2007.