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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.