7 Common Home Repair Dangers for Pets

Spring is here, which means it's home repair season. Perhaps you’re itching to finally repaint your living room or maybe you’re getting ready to replace the tile in your guest bathroom. Whatever you’re planning for your next project, as a pet owner, you know that your cat and/or dog often likes to “help” you out. You may think of this as funny or merely a nuisance, but as a veterinary toxicologist for the ASPCA, I know from experience that sometimes your animal’s curiosity can get him in serious trouble.

Before you start scraping, painting and drilling, brush up on these common home fixer-upper dangers and learn how to protect your pet. If you suspect your pet has ingested any of the substances listed below, contact your veterinarian immediately or call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435.

Beware These Fixer Upper Dangers

Old paint peeling off wall


Old Lead Paint

Lead isn’t just a hazard for humans; it can be very toxic for animals, too. If your home was built before 1978, it’s imperative to test for lead paint before doing any type of paint scraping or sanding. Lead paint can flake and turn into dust and be ingested by pets grooming themselves. Signs of lead poisoning include incoordination, muscle tremors, seizures and death. You can purchase a lead testing kit at your local hardware store. If your home does test positive for lead paint, consider hiring a certified lead-abatement contractor to get rid of it. You could try to remove it yourself using the EPA's guidelines, but you’re better off leaving it to the pros.

Man painting a wall


Current Paint, Stain and Varnish Products

Most paints, varnishes and stains are water based and will cause only vomiting and diarrhea if ingested. If your pet gets one of these water-based products on his fur, remove it with soap and water. If the product is oil based, let it dry and then clip or cut it off. You will need to prevent your pet from attempting to lick the paint while it dries. Put an E-collar on your pup if you happen to have one at home. If you cannot stop your dog from licking the area, however, and you can easily bathe your pet, use a mild dish detergent to try and remove as much as you can. Clip or cut any remaining residue out of his fur once it dries. Never use paint thinners, mineral spirits or turpentine to remove paint from your dog or cat. These products can cause pain and chemical burns.




Spackle can be a tempting treat for dogs — both when it’s wet and after it dries. Accidental ingestion can cause vomiting, but the biggest risk factor is gastrointestinal obstruction. Large pieces may not be able to pass through the digestive tract and may require surgical removal. Some spackle contains ethylene glycol, the same toxic chemical found in antifreeze, but, thankfully, the amount is very low. Unless you have a small pet or your animal eats an entire container, the ethylene glycol shouldn’t cause any problems. If your pet is vomiting repeatedly or seems “drunk,” contact your veterinarian immediately.

Foam insulation


Tile Adhesives, Spray Foam Insulation and Polyurethane Glues

These products can contain isocyanates, compounds that expand in the stomach if ingested, and can form large foreign bodies that have to be surgically removed. If your pet ingests one of these products, see your veterinarian right away.

Pink fiberglass insulation


Fiberglass Insulation

It may look like cotton candy, but if your pet ingests fiberglass insulation, it can cause mouth irritation and gastrointestinal obstruction, because of the fiberglass it contains. If your dog or cat rubs up against the insulation, bathe him immediately to remove all the fibers. But make sure you’re wearing gloves — insulation fibers can be very irritating to skin.

Sanding wood


Project By-Products

Curious pets may try to ingest the leftover substances from your home repair projects, such as sawdust or drywall pieces. If ingested in large quantities, your animal’s electrolyte balance can start having problems, which may require intravenous therapy to correct. Plus, ingestion of leftover pieces can also potentially lead to gastrointestinal blockage, which may require surgery.

Power drill


Power Tools

If you’re using power tools, make sure your pets are contained. Curious dogs and cats may hear the whir of a drill or the buzz of a saw, go to investigate and get too close to dangerous moving parts.

One of the best ways to help keep your pet safe from these dangers is to keep him away from your work area. You may need to close a door or put up a baby gate. If that's not possible, consider boarding your pet at a kennel or with a friend or family member until your home repair project is complete.

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