With pet ownership rising in the UK, many of us have decided to take home a new four-legged friend over the last couple of years.
Often new animal owners aren’t aware that there can be hidden dangers around the home – including some common household items.
Here Chris Socratous, from pet experts Bob Martin, takes us through some key things to look out for.
He explained: "It can be overwhelming trying to understand which household items might be a problem for your pet, but hopefully these points provide a starting point to ensure that you can create a home that's safe for your cat or dog. Explore non-toxic options in everything from houseplants to cleaning materials, and your pet will surely be happier for it.
"As well as choosing household items that are safe for pets, it's useful to know what to do if your four-legged friend does happen upon something that irritates them. In mild cases, such as nose or eye irritation, the most important thing to do is to remove the offending substance and make sure that the room is aired well.
"If you spot any digestive issues, more serious skin irritation or vomiting, it's important that you call your vet as soon as possible, as this could be a sign that your pet has ingested something toxic."
You might already know that many common houseplants and garden flowers have the potential to be harmful to pets. In terms of houseplants, you should be avoiding lilies and tulips in particular, as these can both be toxic to cats and dogs. If you are ordering flowers or looking for something ornamental, go for African violets or friendship plants, which are both non-toxic and offer pretty flowers to brighten up your space without endangering your pet.
Some common garden plants can also be an issue, such as ivy and poinsettia being toxic to dogs, with elephant's ear, chrysanthemum and azalea plants being poisonous to cats. While it's very difficult to ensure that your garden is completely safe, it's helpful to avoid these key plants and instead grow things such as catnip, valerian or cat grass for felines and snapdragons, asters, and camellias if you have a dog.
Many of the cleaning products that we use on a regular basis can also be harmful to our pets. For instance, bleach has such a strong smell that it can irritate their sensitive noses, making it definitely one to avoid. As well as this, disinfectants containing benzalkonium chloride should be swapped out for something more gentle, as they can also cause irritation to pets' noses, paws and eyes.
You should instead use cleaning products marked non-toxic and safe for pets. There are plenty of options in this area now, so it's worth taking the time to read the labels of what you're buying — as a bonus, using less chemicals in your cleaning regimen will also make it better for the environment. This one might be more of a surprise than the dangers posed by plants and cleaning products, but many air fresheners can also be a problem for our four-legged friends. Phthalates are a family of chemicals often found in home air fresheners and fragrances, and they can be dangerous if your pet inhales them.
There are also many different foodstuffs that are hazardous to both dogs and cats, which you should keep away from anywhere that your pet might be sniffing around. For instance, have a designated cupboard, preferably high up, where you keep the things that shouldn't be near your four-legged friend, so that they can't find them. It's also advisable to keep these items in tins, Tupperware or other sealed containers that your pup or cat can't open, as this will create another barrier keeping them safe. It will also prevent them from smelling them too strongly, hopefully reducing their curiosity.
The main foods to look out for are chocolate, garlic, onions, Xylitol (a sweetener found in lots of foods like peanut butter and cereals), raw or undercooked meat, raw yeast dough, grapes and raisins, and macadamia nuts.
Craft or decorating materials
The next time you have an arts and crafts session, you should ensure everything is put away safely afterwards and that your pet is kept out of the room when you have art materials about. Many people assume that cats or dogs won't stick their noses into non-edible substances like paint or superglue, but curious animals will always sneak their way into where you don't expect them.
So, plan for this and ensure that you don't leave anything dangerous out for them to find. Equally, keep your furry companion out of the way when doing any household decorating. Materials such as glue, paint, wallpaper paste and other decorating materials, should all be kept stored away. While there aren't yet many non-toxic alternatives for these items, you should ensure that your pet is occupied away from where they are being used, and open the window to air the room before allowing them back in.
Insecticides and rodenticides
Some products that we use to kill insects or rodents are can also be harmful to pets. Substances designed to kill rodents are particularly dangerous to our four-legged friends, as both dogs and cats can often be tempted by the tasty pellets and granules. If ingested, they can cause serious problems, such as internal bleeding, brain swelling, or high calcium levels. You should avoid using these products or keeping them in the house — instead, if you have a rodent issue, it's best to arrange a pest control appointment and make sure that your pet is kept away from the area, as well as it being fully cleared up afterwards.
Things that you commonly use to kill insects both inside your home and in the garden can also be harmful. Bug spray, ant bait and others can all be dangerous, so always read the label before buying any insecticides. There are a range of pet-safe insecticidal home sprays, with many specifically designed for insects such as fleas for example, which can infest your pet and your home. With garden sprays in particular, there are lots of organic options and ones that are not toxic to cats and dogs, so make use of these and avoid potential harm to your pet.