Free 2-Day Shipping On Orders Over $30!

Common Household Items That Could Be Harming Your Pet

February 23, 2022

household items and dog

Did you know that many of the common household items you use around your home could be harming your pet?

While certain obvious chemical products might be clearly off limits, it’s difficult to keep track of all the hidden, dangerous substances in household products these days, some of which can be in your dog or cat’s food! 

We're shedding light on some the dangerous secret ingredients hiding out in your common household products so that you can avoid them in the future, keeping your home a haven for you and your pets!


You may already be aware that household cleaners can contain some highly toxic ingredients. Take products that contain sodium hypochlorite (bleach), formaldehyde, or ammonia for example. Those are fairly obvious, but what about the less-obvious substances, like certain kinds of detergents? Yes, those can be toxic to pets (not to mention you!) as well. 

There are four major types of “detergent” out there:

  1. Soaps, including hand soap and laundry soap. These are typically not toxic, but it’s best to avoid letting your pet ingest them. 
  2. Anionic detergents, which you might find in the ingredient’s list on some types of dishwashing soaps, laundry detergents, or shampoos. Anionic detergents are somewhat toxic, but they will not be dangerous if ingested in the vast majority of cases, especially at the dilution ratios common in cleaning products.
  3. Non-ionic detergents can be found in some kinds of shampoo, dishwashing detergents, and laundry detergents. While you certainly wouldn’t want your pet to ingest them, non-ionic detergents are generally not excessively harmful.
  4. Cationic Detergents, which are included in disinfectors, sanitizers, and fabric softeners. Cationic detergents are the real danger for your pets (+ you!). They are considered highly toxic, causing drooling, vomiting, internal burns and blisters + swelling that can block the esophagus, and high fever. According to some sources, cationic detergents can cause seizures in pets if ingested at a high enough dose. 
household items and cat

Of all the types of detergent that exist, it's most important to avoid cationic detergents that pose a real danger to your pets. As many pet parents know, dogs like to eat stuff they’re not supposed to and cats are inordinately curious. Together, this is a bad combination! Poisoning occurs in dogs and cats when they ingest detergents, particularly cationic detergents. These detergents can also harm a dog or cat’s skin. Frequently, cats will ingest detergents after they walk through a spilled puddle on the ground and then groom themselves. This causes both internal damage and harm to skin. Or, a cat might get too curious and knock over a container of detergent. Dogs will often eat spilled detergent—sometimes right after the cat knocked it over!

Whenever possible, avoid products that contain cationic detergents! It’s just not worth the risk to your pets.

Essential Oils

What? You might ask. Essential oils are harmful to pets?

Well, some of them are, while many aren’t. The issue with essential oils is that dogs and cats react differently to many of them than we do. For humans, essential oils can provide a healthy boost to our lifestyles, improving clarity and focus, but for pets (especially cats), some essential oils can cause respiratory irritation and sometimes even pneumonia! They can lead to vomiting, drooling, and trouble breathing. Again, not all essential oils are harmful pets, but the following list details those that can be potentially dangerous according to some sources. This list is not exhaustive, so be sure to check with your veterinarian if you're unsure.

  1. Anise (dogs)
  2. Bitter almond (cats & dogs)
  3. Cinnamon (cats & dogs)
  4. Citrus—including orange, lemon, lime, bergamot, and lemongrass (cats & dogs) 
  5. Clove Leaf (cats & dogs)
  6. Eucalyptus (cats & dogs)
  7. Garlic (dogs)
  8. Geranium (cats & dogs)
  9. Juniper (dogs)
  10. Lavender (cats & dogs)
  11. Mint—including wintergreen, spearmint, + peppermint (cats & dogs)
  12. Oregano (cats & dogs)
  13. Pennyroyal (cats & dogs)
  14. Pine (cats & dogs)
  15. Rosemary (cats)
  16. Sassafras (cats & dogs [some also consider it toxic to humans])
  17. Sweet Birch (cats & dogs)
  18. Tarragon (cats & dogs)
  19. Tea tree (cats & dogs)
  20. Thyme (cats & dogs)
  21. Wormwood (cats & dogs)
  22. Yarrow (dogs)
  23. Ylang ylang (cats & dogs)

Pet Food & Treats

Yes, you read that correctly. Even your dog’s food might contain toxic ingredients in some rare cases! This isn’t necessarily the fault of dog food companies. Instead, mold (which produces mycotoxins) can sometimes build-up in your dog’s food if it was left out too long, wasn’t properly sealed, or sat in a warehouse for an extended period of time or beyond its expiration date. Making sure your dog’s food is properly sealed, suitably stored, and recently produced will virtually eliminate any potential, scary mycotoxin complications. Other issues can result from dog-food containers containing BPA, a synthetic substance which can lead to a whole host of problems in pets. 

Remember when we mentioned formaldehyde earlier? As crazy as it seems, formaldehyde may be your dog’s rawhide chews! Not all types of rawhide have formaldehyde, but sometimes, when the leather is processed, it is preserved in formaldehyde, and trace amounts of this chemical can be present in the finished rawhide product. Obviously, formaldehyde is very harmful to your pet and should be avoided by purchasing high-quality rawhides that have not been exposed to the chemical.

household items and rawhide

Better yet, although rawhide remains a popular choice for pet owners, the chews are not easily digestible and can quickly become a choking hazard. Instead, look for healthy, digestible treats like Himalayan chews, antlers, or bully sticks. And, always monitor your pet while they enjoy a treat.

Stain & Water Repelling Fabrics and Non-Stick Surfaces

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are a family of more than 3,000 structures of highly fluorinated chemicals used in industrial processes and consumer products, such as protective coatings for carpets, furniture and apparel, paper coatings, insecticide formulations, and other items.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, PFAS can be found in:

  • Food packaged in PFAS-containing materials, processed with equipment that used PFAS, or grown in PFAS-contaminated soil or water.
  • Household products, including stain- and water-repellent fabrics, nonstick products (e.g., Teflon), polishes, waxes, and paints.
  • Workplace, including production facilities or industries (e.g., chrome plating, electronics manufacturing or oil recovery) that use PFAS.
  • Drinking water, typically localized and associated with a specific facility (e.g., manufacturer, landfill, wastewater treatment plant, firefighter training facility).
  • Living organisms, including fish, animals and humans, where PFAS have the ability to build up and persist over time.

And, according to a study published in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistrythere may be a link between these chemicals and the endocrine disorder hyperthyroidism in cats.

Glow Sticks

Believe it or not, glow sticks and glow jewelry are among the top toxins that the Pet Poison Helpline receives phone calls about. During certain holidays, especially Halloween, glow sticks can be found at the checkout counter of nearly every store. Though they’re a fun toy for kids, they pose a dangerous threat to our pets.

Glow sticks contain a chemical called dibutyl phthalate (DBP), the oily liquid that causes that familiar glow. If your pet bites into a glow stick, DBP can leak out and cause drooling, burning and irritation to the skin and eyes, and vomiting. 

Pesticides, Insecticides, and Rodenticides

While this household source of danger seems obvious, products used to control pests, insects, and rodents consistently rank among the top sources of poisoning in pets. Homeowners may forget when using poisonous pest control methods that these products can be just as toxic —and appetizing— to your four-legged friends. A pet’s curious nature automatically puts them at risk and, depending on the active ingredient used, poisoning symptoms may not appear for several days, making it more difficult to diagnose the cause of illness.

The active ingredient type and concentration determine the severity of poisoning the pet will endure. Long-lasting anticoagulants (LAACs) are the most commonly used active ingredients in rodenticides and prevent an animal’s blood from clotting. Other active ingredients include Cholecalciferol, which can cause acute kidney failure in pets, and Bromethalin, which can lead to brain swelling, tremors, and seizures. Typical symptoms of poisoning to look out for include lack of coordination, lethargy, vomiting, poor appetite, pale gums and difficulty breathing.

household items and cat on kitchen counter

Houseplants & Fertilizers

Many pet owners are already aware that a number of common household plants are toxic to our furriest family members. But, in addition to the plants themselves, standing water, fertilizers, and plant foods in planters and pots can pose a serious health risk if ingested. Most fertilizers contain varying amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (potash). They may also contain iron, copper, zinc, cobalt, boron, manganese and molybdenum, some of which may be toxic in large concentrations. Some fertilizers also contain herbicides and fungicides which increase the toxicity. 

Before bringing any plants into your home, check that they’re safe around your pets. And, make sure pets don't have access to standing water or plant food being used.


Now that you know some of the typical ways toxic substances can sneak into your home through common household items, it’s time to look at implementing a few practical solutions! How can you avoid letting these risky substances harm you or your pet? 

Here are some tips: 

Read the labels! Watching out for bad ingredients is a must if you want a toxin-free home. One of the most fool-proof ways to do this is to thoroughly scan product labels. Yes, it’s time-consuming and probably a bit boring, but when you know what to look for (see above!), you can catch a lot of noxious substances before they enter your home and harm your pet. 

Don’t mask odors with air fresheners; instead, solve the problem by eliminating its source! See more on this below.

Purchase from companies that do not have histories of recalled products. If a company has had many recalled products in the past, there’s a good chance they might still be using some caustic ingredients nowadays. This is especially apparent if the company currently refuses to give clear answers about the toxicity of their products. Plus, if the company had been using safe ingredients to begin with, they wouldn’t have had to extend a recall!

Instead of poisoning pests, prevent them. Rather than filling the home with poisons and toxic chemicals to kill pests, use natural methods such as sealing cracks in windows, doors, and walls with caulk or weatherstrip, transferring dry food into airtight containers, fixing any leaks, and cleaning up areas where pet food may be present in order to eliminate attractants that lure pests in.

Keep curious pets away from potential dangers. When it's impossible to completely eliminate all chemicals, toxins, or sources of danger from your home, take steps to make sure pets are unable to access these household items. Be diligent about closing cabinet doors and use cabinet and drawer locks if your pets have learned to open them. Whenever possible, store toxic products in a garage or in a room that your pet cannot access.

Alternative Safer Ways to Clean

All through this article, we’ve explored chemical cleaners that often mask issues without ever getting to the bottom of the problem. For example, many pet odor products will simply mask the nose-wrinkling smell with powerful (and probably dangerous) fragrances, but they don’t eliminate the odor. 

On the other hand, some products, including Unique Pet Odor and Stain Eliminator, remove pet stains and odors from their source. Pet Odor and Stain Eliminator does this by eating (literally biodegradation) the stain or odor with the best strains of safe bacteria and enzymes. Beyond this, the bacteria we use are aerobic, meaning that they produce only carbon dioxide and water as byproducts of the digestion process. This leaves behind no odor or stain, all while employing a proven, effective formula that you can use with confidence.

pet odor and stain eliminator and cat

While we’re certainly a little biased, we think Pet Odor and Stain Eliminator and our other products are effective and safer alternatives to caustic chemical products containing dangerous ingredients.


While there can be a few sneaky ingredients lurking in the shadowy corners of product labels, it doesn’t mean you can’t learn to avoid them. In fact, with a little knowledge under your belt and some initiative to make changes, you can virtually eliminate all the risks associated with the products and items we covered above. So don’t get overwhelmed! 

If you should have any questions about the information conveyed in this article or about our products or other blogs, we’d love to answer them! We chat with customers daily, helping them solve the issues that pet parents run into regularly, and we’d be more than happy to help you get back on track. You can reach us at

Sources Cited:


Also in Tinkle Talk Blog

9 Essential Products For Your New Puppy
9 Essential Products For Your New Puppy

January 30, 2023

9 Essential Products For Your New Puppy

Life with a new puppy is so exciting.Be ready to welcome them into your home to make the process easier for everyone. It is like bringing a baby home, you must be physically and mentally prepared to make it a joyful experience.

Continue Reading

Planning for Your Newly Adopted Cat’s Litter Box Success
Planning for Your Newly Adopted Cat’s Litter Box Success

November 14, 2022

Chances are that if you’re adopting a new cat, you want everything to be just right for your new furry friend. From food choices to scratching posts, you have many different choices to make and it can all feel overwhelming!

Continue Reading

ginger cat sitting in covered litter box, how to control litter box odors
Top Tips for Controlling Litter Box Odors

July 06, 2022

If you're a cat lover, then you know that one of the downsides of having a feline friend is dealing with the litter box. While cats are relatively clean animals, cat urine and waste can produce an unpleasant odor that can be tough to get rid of.

If you're looking for ways to control the litter box smell in your home, check out these top tips.

Continue Reading