Springtime Cleaning Poses Concerns For Your Pets. Beware!!!

by Dr. Doug Pernikoff, DVM

Somehow, springtime stimulates even the most committed couch potatoes towards garage and basement cleaning. It may be the sense of ‘a new beginning’, associated with the inviting sounds of an orchestral ensemble of backyard birds; the smells and sights of newly erupting fragrant roses, dogwoods and peonies; or, maybe it has something to do with gentle rantings of our spouses, encouraging us to get the garden tools out and start preparing the plant beds for spring plantings. Whatever the impetus to do so, pet owners must be alert to the collection of chemicals and other threatening elements uncovered and newly presented to our exploring pets as they join us in our cleaning adventures.

Whether it is a basement or a garage cleaning, the risks are common, as both sites encourage fall and winter stacking and packing. What do we release to our world as we set out to reorganize and discard the collections of our past seasons? One concern regards disturbing the warm, dark homes of spiders. The brown recluse spider is a frequent resident in our Missouri homes. They love those very low light, moist boxes, drawers and corners. Unfortunately, their bite can cause a good deal of tissue damage, and that concerns not only our own human safety, but our pets as well. In particular, as dogs and cats sniff out anything in motion, as is typical of a acutely exposed spider, it is not uncommon for a bite to occur. The degree of tissue damage is directly related to the amount of venom injected. Over time, if left unattended, the venom works it way outward, often in circular fashion, causing a gradual cell death and eventually, a loss of tissue that often requires veterinary surgical intervention towards the ‘fix’.

Certain trash items that repulse us, may be attracting to our pets. Ingestion of any number of trash items can create intestinal problems like irritation induced vomiting and diarrhea, or even obstructions along the bowel tract. Bones can become trapped in the mouth cavity, or even at the back of the throat, promoting a choking or gagging action. Be careful about sticking your own fingers into the mouth of an excited and scared critter, lest you find yourself at the emergency hospital tending to unexpected bite wounds. I always encourage a visit to the vet to clear such objects, where a light sedation can work best to accomplish the task safely.

Another specific concern is the potential exposure of our pets to ethylene glycol, commonly referred to as ‘anti-freeze’. It is a common practice to flush our radiators of this chemical come spring, which turns out to be highly toxic to all living critters. The problem is that this chemical is an alcohol derivative and thereby, is sweet and tasty to our pets’ palates. The poison attacks the kidneys, causing complete failure based on the amount ingested relative to the size of the animal. If you suspect your beloved pet has ingested, or even licked at a pool of antifreeze, please find your way to the emergency veterinary clinic or to your family veterinarian. The sooner the response, the better the prognosis for your family pet.

What other bad things may materialize throughout our cleaning actions? Don’t forget a diverse collection of chemicals to include plant fertilizers, insecticides, motor oils, fuels, solvents like paint thinner or battery acid leaking from that worn out battery we chucked over in the corner last fall. Anyone of these items can tempt the insatiable interests of our pets, and result in a toxic exposure. The general rule of thumb with most any of these poisons, is NOT to induce vomiting, as many are corrosive going in, and corrosive coming back out. The best rule is to get to the vet. They will support your pet with stomach protectants like activated charcoal; and, in other cases, they may suggest hospitalization, blood work and intravenous fluids for some specified amount of time.

A logical safeguarding action would be to keep the pets inside, away from our cleaning episodes. And, again, should you suspect any sort of poison exposure by your pet, take the label along with you to the veterinarian, so he/she can best assess the risk and offer the best support possible. Good luck and enjoy the many wonders of spring time, but always keep your guard up on behalf of our beloved family pets. And, remember— if you are looking for a new family pet, ‘Don’t shop, but rather, ADOPT!!!!

Fondly, Dr. Doug

Visit our booth at the Healthy Planet Expo, March 10 in Webster Groves!