By KAREN CUNNINGHAM
As you do the spring cleaning at home or camp, remember that household cleaning products can be a hazard to your pets.
Most household surface cleaning products result in minor clinical signs of vomiting and diarrhea; these products are typically sprays used to wipe down windows and kitchen counters.
However, there are certain cleaning products in your home that can be really dangerous for your pets. Products that pose the biggest corrosive or caustic danger threat are: drain cleaners, pool chemicals, concentrated dishwashing chemicals, lime-removal products, oven cleaners, and concentrated toilet cleaners.
A guideline on how to differentiate safer versus more dangerous household cleaners is this: items that smell really bad are typically pretty dangerous. If you see the words “Caution” versus “Danger” on the bottle; the word “Danger” typically means the product is corrosive or caustic, and can cause severe injury to you and your pet.
Corrosive or caustic products can cause chemical burns when ingested or when accidentally exposed to the fur and skin of your pet. This requires immediate first aid care at home and a visit to your veterinarian right away.
Clinical signs for corrosive or caustic injury includes: red, raw skin; blistering of the skin; pain; pawing at the mouth; severe drooling; not eating; fever; pawing at the eyes; tearing of the eyes; and lethargy or malaise.
Untreated, it can result in severe tissue damage (like rupturing the esophagus or stomach) or even death.
So, what do you do if your pet is accidentally exposed to a corrosive or caustic substance?
1. First, safely get your pet to a safe area (to prevent it from ingesting more).
2. Carefully gather the container or substance to bring to the veterinary clinic or to describe to the veterinarian (protect yourself by using gloves).
3. Contact your veterinarian for further immediate recommendations.
4. If the product was ingested or chewed on, flush your pet’s mouth out with tap water, making sure that they don’t choke on it or inhale it. You can use a turkey baster or even a kitchen sink hose; however, never stick the hose down your pet’s throat or mouth, as they can choke on it. Make sure your pet’s nose is pointed down towards the ground to prevent excess water from being swallowed or inhaled. Attempt to flush for 10-15 minutes.
5. If your cat was affected, offer something tasty like canned tuna water or chicken broth to help flush out the mouth.
6. Once you begin these steps, seek immediate veterinary attention.
If there was dermal exposure (onto the skin or fur) of a corrosive or caustic substance:
1. Liberally flush the affected area with water, using protective gloves to keep you safe.
2. Safely gather the container or substance to bring to the veterinary clinic or to describe to the veterinarian.
3. Apply a generous amount of sterile lubricant (such a KY Jelly), but do not apply any chemicals or neutralizing agents.
4. Loosely cover the wound with gauze or a bandage.
5. Seek immediate veterinary attention.
Knowing these facts may save your pet in the event of an accidental exposure. But the best thing is to keep cleaning chemicals out of reach of your pets (and your kids).
Use childproof locks on cabinets and make sure you lock your pets OUT of the area when you’re cleaning.
Karen Cunningham is the president of the St. Lawrence Valley Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.