Household cleaning products, finger (paw) licking good?

After Rocky the cat walked over a freshly mopped floor with a pine-based disinfectant, his observant owner noticed that he continuously began to lick his paws. Shortly after, she presented Rocky to the Animal Emergency Centre after he became lethargic, had a loss of appetite and continued to drool. The critical care team identified a large ulcer around the rim of his tongue, which was caused by chemical poisioning.

Rocky was given pain relief, placed on a drip and had an anaesthetic to rinse his mouth out with copious amounts of a saline solution to stop any further damage caused by the chemical. He also had an oesophagostomy feeding tube surgically placed. This feeding tube would allow Rocky to be fed at home while the ulcer on his tongue healed.

After several weeks of rest and feeding via the feeding tube at home, Rocky’s ulcer healed and he was able to eat and drink normally again. His feeding tube was removed and now Rocky is back to his old- self again and as handsome as ever!

Rocky’s story is not an uncommon one to us here at the Animal Emergency Centre. There are many household cleaners, such as bleach, drain cleaners, ammonia and toilet bowl cleaners that can cause ulcers to the mouth, oesophagus and stomach. General surface cleaners tend to be safe in very small doses, though they may cause stomach upset if ingested. Most general surface cleaners are safe after they have dried out on the surfaces.

The most dangerous cleaning products to our pets are strongly acidic or alkaline products, which may cause chemical burns if ingested. Examples of such products include rust removers, toilet bowel cleaners, caustic soda, oven cleaners, drain cleaners, pool cleaners and calcium/lime removal agents.

Of the poisoned pets reported in 2012, 7% were incidents related to household cleaning products. Don’t let your pet be one of them! Always read and follow the recommendations for use on the products label. Keep cleaning chemicals out of reach of your pets, and away from areas you have cleaned until the surfaces are dry.

If you think your pet may have been poisoned by a cleaning product at home, contact your regular veterinarian or the Animal Emergency Centre immediately. Signs of ingestion may include drooling, pawing at the mouth, vomiting, reluctance to eat, lethargy, diarrhoea, change in voice or breathing difficulties. Signs of chemical burn to the skin include reddening or blistering of the skin, pain, reluctance to move, lethargy, pawing of the eyes or “crying” (increased tear production).

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