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Household Substances Toxic to Your Pet

April 23, 2021

Household Substances Toxic to Your Pet

Did you know that the common household cleaners and other products you use around your home might be harming your pet? Unfortunately, it’s true, and most people don’t even know about it! No doubt, while certain obvious chemical products might be clearly off limits, it’s difficult to keep track of all the hidden, dangerous substances in products these days, some of which can be in your dog or cat’s food! 

Don’t worry, though. Today we’ll get to the bottom of the nasty 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!


Plenty of people are already aware that some common household cleaners can contain some pretty 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. 

Of all the types of detergent out there, you should watch out for cationic detergents! These pose a real danger to your pets. As many pet parents will know, dogs like to eat stuff they’re not supposed to eat, and cats are inordinately curious. Together, this is a bad combination! Detergent poisoning occurs in dogs and cats when they ingest detergents, particularly cationic detergents. Highly toxic detergents like cationic detergents can also harm the 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!

The main takeaway from this should be, don’t use any products that contain cationic detergents! It’s just not worth it if you ask us. 

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! This 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, but it is not exhaustive. The list also specifies what species these essential oils are toxic to according to some sources:

  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)

Dog Food

Yes, you read that accurately. Even your dog’s food might contain toxic ingredients in some rare cases! Sometimes, 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 can get into your dog’s rawhide chew toys! Not all types of rawhide have formaldehyde, but sometimes, when the leather is produced, 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 formaldehyde. 


Now that you know some of the typical ways toxic substances can slip into some common 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!

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. 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. With that said, we encourage you to do your research and decide on the best product for your needs and preference!


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:


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