As responsible pet parents, we do everything we can to ensure the safety and health of our furry friends. Just like with childproofing, it’s crucial to pet-proof our homes and protect our animals from potential dangers. Although we strive to create a pleasant living environment, some common practices such as using air fresheners can pose risks to our beloved pets. So, should we completely eliminate room sprays, candles, and other air fresheners from our homes? While there isn’t a straightforward answer, there are precautions we can take to keep our pets safe.
The Hidden Dangers of Air Fresheners
According to holistic veterinarian Dr. Patrick Mahaney, many air fresheners contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can be highly toxic to animals. VOCs are organic chemicals that easily vaporize at room temperature, releasing gases into the air. Unfortunately, these compounds are present in various products, including paints, fuels, and even dry-cleaning processes. When we use air fresheners, we unintentionally expose our pets to these potentially harmful substances.
The Environmental Protection Agency warns that VOC exposure may lead to several health issues, such as eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, coordination problems, and damage to vital organs like the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. In some cases, certain VOCs have been linked to cancer in both animals and humans. Shockingly, a study found that top-selling air fresheners and laundry detergents emitted a staggering 133 different toxic or hazardous compounds.
Are Essential Oils a Safer Alternative?
In recent years, the air freshener industry has marketed “essential oils” as a natural and safer alternative. While essential oils are derived from plants and have potential medicinal benefits, they can still be toxic if not used correctly. Veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Coates advises caution, especially in households with cats and birds. Essential oils are particularly dangerous for cats, and birds are extremely sensitive to airborne toxins. If you choose to use essential oils in your home, make sure to keep them out of reach of your pets.
How to Safely Use Air Fresheners Around Your Pets
To ensure the well-being of your pets, it’s essential to be well-informed when using air fresheners. Dr. Mahaney suggests following the instructions on the product label and using the recommended amount. If entering a room heavily saturated with air freshener affects your eyes and lungs, it will likely have a similar or worse impact on your pets.
Recognizing the Signs of Toxic Reactions
Animals can show immediate or delayed symptoms after exposure to air fresheners. Some immediate reactions may include withdrawal from the area, coughing, sneezing, eye or nasal discharge, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or loss of appetite. Prolonged exposure to air fresheners has been linked to feline asthma and other respiratory issues in cats. It’s essential to be aware that the danger extends beyond inhalation. Pets can also be affected if they come into direct contact with contaminated surfaces or ingest the substances.
What to Do if Your Pet Ingests an Air Freshener
Ingesting an air freshener can be more hazardous than simply inhaling it. Long-lasting air fresheners like solid or plug-in varieties should be closely monitored and disposed of carefully. If your pet is prone to digging through the trash, make sure to dispose of used air fresheners in an outside trash receptacle. If your pet has ingested an air freshener, be watchful for symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, or unusual behavior. Depending on the chemicals involved, both gastrointestinal and neurological effects can occur. If you suspect your pet has ingested a toxic substance, contact your veterinarian immediately. For additional information on pet toxins, the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center offers a comprehensive resource.
By being mindful of the potential harm air fresheners can pose to our pets and taking the necessary precautions, we can ensure a safer and healthier environment for our furry companions. Remember, their well-being is in our hands.
Featured image: iStock.com/Smikey26