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March 21, 2013

Green cleaning for humans can still sicken pets

As the time nears for spring cleaning and companies offer more environmentally friendly alternatives to toxic cleaners, veterinarians say pet owners should keep in mind that what’s green to a human can be dangerous — even deadly — to animals.

“People expose their animals without even realizing the risk,” said Dr. Karl Jandrey, who works in the emergency and critical care units at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California, Davis. “That’s the most common thing that happens when you come to our emergency room — the clients put their pets at risk because they were unaware of how significant the damage could be.”

Most household cleaners are safe if used as directed on labels, but pet owners who make their own cleansers using natural ingredients don’t have the warnings or instructions that come with commercial products.

Cats, for example, can get stomachaches from essential oils added for orange, lemon or peppermint scents in cleaners, said Dr. Camille DeClementi, a senior toxicologist at the Animal Poison Control Center run by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Urbana, Ill.

Most commercial green products are safe for animals, DeClementi said, but owners should still exercise the same precautions as with chemical alternatives, such as keeping pets away from an area being cleaned, not using sprays directly on a pet and making sure that dogs don’t chew on the products.

If a product says “Keep out of reach of children,” keep it away from pets too, DeClementi said.

Caroline Golon, an Ohio mother of two children under 5 and owner of two Persian cats, said she became concerned about cleaning products before her children were born, when she noticed how often the cats jumped between floors and counters. The Columbus resident uses only unscented green products or vinegar and water to clean, a water-only steam mop on floors and washes the cats’ dishes and litter boxes with hot water and green dish soap.

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