Products used for DIY projects can be irritating to pets



Many pet owners on social media have been posting problems with their pets that they never noticed before. In some cases, they complain about new rashes, watery eyes, sneezing or scratching. They also mention vomiting and difficulty breathing.

They then ask the question, “I’m experiencing some of these symptoms too; is my pet making me ill?”

With so many people working from home, we are taking the time to accomplish tasks on that “honey do” list and adding a number of new things to our environment that include paint, carpet and more cleaning products.

Your first response should be to take that pet to the vet. But when you are asked if there is any change in diet or have you been going to the park more, do not forget to mention those things that are new in the environment you might otherwise not think about.

The diagnosis could be multiple chemical sensitivity.

MCS in broad terms means an unusually severe sensitivity or allergy-like reaction to many different kinds of pollutants, including solvents, volatile organic compounds, perfumes, essential oils, paints, fabric sizing, latex, formaldehyde and pesticides.

That “new carpet” smell is the off-gassing of the 4-phenylcyclohexene in the nylon material. Choosing a natural carpet such as wool might be a better choice, but keeping windows open to air out the home is a must. I keep a HEPA air purifier running all the time just to reduce dust and dander in my multi-pet house.

Even that new carpet you bought online may contain things like pesticides to enter the U.S.

Oil-based paints can contain many volatile organic compounds you or your pet could be allergic to. Opting for water-based whenever possible is a way to avoid the reaction.

Besides inhalation, direct skin contact is a more frequent way of developing an allergy. We are all using more detergent, sanitizers, soaps and cleansers—check the ingredient list.

That quick and easy spray floor cleaner may be causing pet’s paws to itch or blister. The detergent you are washing their bedding in may contain perfumes you enjoy but can be an irritant to them.

We have seen folks even use bleach or hand sanitizer wipes on their pet’s paws after a walk; this has horrible results. These products are not made for pets, and you need to use products intended for pets only.

Part of making homes more cozy has been adding things like air fresheners, oil diffusers, candles and scent wicks. However, the harm is not always in what you put in your diffuser, but how much, how long and proximity.

Pets should only be exposed to diffused essential oils for a few minutes, preferably in a different room. Phenols, a chemical group in oils such as those derived from thyme and oregano; monoterpene hydrocarbons such as pine; phenylpropanes such as basil and cinnamon; and many essential oils in the ketone group such as pennyroyal and wormwood can be toxic to pets and, frankly, are not great for us to routinely breathe either.

I also caution pet owners to keep those Himalayan salt lamps out of reach, as there is a tendency by both dogs and cats to lick them.

An old expression was used by coal miners about the canary in the mine. Essentially, our pets might experience things that are warning to us as well.

They are closer to the floor, so products you use there are stronger in their environment. They are much smaller than us, so concentration of products in the air has a greater impact on their noses, eyes and lungs too.

I recommend you always check ingredient lists. When in doubt, ask your vet for advice first.

Berke is a local animal advocate with more than 30 years of experience in rescue, care and adoption. She is outreach manager for the Agoura Hills-based nonprofit Little Angels Project. Email her at