Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Pet Friendly Spring Cleaning

I don’t know about you, but this time every year, when hints of spring are all around, when the temps are rising a bit and the sun is shining more, I get the urge to spring clean and refresh my home. If you’re reading this column, chances are you’re a pet-lover, so you may be interested to learn that there are lots of ways you can spring clean and refresh so that your pet is happier and more comfortable.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that pets are, in general, much more sensitive to toxins, fumes, and irritants than we humans are. Consider the results of this study, by the Environmental Working Group, of products used in the home:

“Dogs and cats were contaminated with 48 of 70 chemicals tested, including 43 chemicals at higher levels than those typically found in people, according to our study of plastics and food packaging chemicals, heavy metals, fire retardants, and stain-proofing chemicals in pooled samples of blood and urine from 20 dogs and 37 cats collected at a Virginia veterinary clinic. In dogs, the average level of stain- and grease-proof coatings (perfluorochemicals) was 2.4 times higher. In cats, fire retardants (Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers or PBDEs) were 23 times higher, and Mercury was more than 5 times the amounts compared to average levels in people found in national studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and EWG.


The study is the most comprehensive investigation of the chemical body burden of companion animals conducted to date, with 23 chemicals reported in pets for the first time. The results reinforce findings from prior studies showing that pets’ unique behaviors may place them at risk for elevated exposures and health risks from chemicals pollutants in the home and outdoors, in air, water, food, soil and consumer products for people and pets.”

Scary, huh? But there are ways to keep your pets safe and healthy as you spring clean. Here are a few tips and precautions:

  1. Remember that the cleaning supplies you use may have harsh chemicals or poisonous substances in them, so keep them out of reach of your pet, and don’t allow your pet around them until surfaces are dry. Ammonia, chlorine, laundry detergent, formaldehyde, phenols (like carbolic acid, hydroxybenzene and oxybenzene), and perchloroethylene are the worst; cats are sensitive to pine oil and birds to aerosols especially.
  2. Your pet may shed more now that the weather’s warming up, so stay on top of brushing and grooming. There’s no need to shave your pet down for warmer weather – in fact, his coat is designed to keep him cool and shaving him down may change his coat. If your pet’s shedding – and those tumbleweeds of dog fur – bother you, take him to a reputable groomer for a Furminator or similar de-shedding treatment.
  3. When you’re washing all your bedding, remember to wash your pet’s also.
  4. This is a good time of year to throw your pet’s toys in the dishwasher or washing machine for cleaning – get in the habit of doing this monthly (bowls and bedding should be washed more often, of course).
  5. Leave open containers of baking soda around the house – but out of reach of your pet – to eliminate stale odors. These don’t emit harsh fumes like chemical sprays or deodorizers.
  6. Don’t use the self-cleaning option on your oven—the fumes can be seriously harmful to your pets. If you must use the self-cleaning function, open the windows and remove your pet from the home.
  7. Open the windows and clean on a day where you can allow fresh air to breeze through and get rid of lung-burning fumes. But – especially if you live in a high-rise — ensure that your screens are in place and are functioning so that your pet doesn’t fall out. Even cats can be seriously injured by a fall from a window.
  8. Pets can have allergies too, so if you’re stirring up a lot of dust, consider having your pet visit a friend for the night in order to let the dust settle. Short-nosed dog breeds like bulldogs and pugs can be particularly sensitive to respiratory irritants.
  9. And don’t forget about the outdoor threats: when spring hits and you start to spend more time in the yard, be aware of pesticides and other lawn treatments. Make sure your pet isn’t out in them when they’re freshly applied or – better yet – don’t use harsh chemical pesticides.
  10. DO keep up with flea, tick, and heartworm preventives, however, as the weather gets warmer and you spend more time outdoors.
  11. Many types of mulch and fertilizer can be harmful, too: make sure not to let your pet lick or eat fertilizers, mulch, and other interesting-smelling lawn items. It’s just a good idea to keep them from eating anything outdoors because you never know if it’s poisonous or toxic. Cocoa mulch can be especially enticing – and especially dangerous – so avoid using it.

Happy Spring – and happy cleaning!

Written by: Ashley Denham Busse
Ashley Denham Busse has worked part-time for since 2006. is a professional pet-sitting company located in Old Town Alexandria, celebrating more than 14 years of providing daily walks and customized in-home pet care. Visit or email

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