Healthy Home, Healthy Pet

by Ann LaGoy

It’s a well-established fact that indoor air often consists of more pollutants than outdoor air. In fact, the level of indoor pollutants can be five to seven times greater than those found outdoors, according to the National Institutes of Health. Household surfaces such as carpeting, hard floors, furniture, and cabinetry, the adhesives used for their installation, and the products used to clean them can all influence the contamination levels found in a home. This in turn affects the humans and animals who dwell in them.

How Cleaning Products Can Harm Pets

Although consumers can’t always control what materials are used to build their homes, they can choose cleaning products that improve indoor air quality and reduce surface contamination levels. This is important when considering that typical pet behavior involves resting on floors and furniture, grooming, licking, and picking scraps up off the floor. Pets are therefore more likely than people to ingest toxins as well as breathe them in. It is not unusual for dogs to drink from the toilet, for example, and toilet bowl cleaners often contain hydrochloric acid, which is highly corrosive to internal and external organs.

Popular household items like floor cleaners, multi-purpose cleansers and furniture polishes may contain toluene, formaldehyde, and sodium hypochlorite. Exposure to these chemicals can trigger skin rashes, diarrhea, dizziness and nerve, kidney and liver damage in humans. Because animals develop and age at a faster rate than people, these ailments often appear more quickly in pets.

Research Shows Toxins and Carcinogens High in Pets

According to research by The Environmental Working Group, pets can have levels of contaminants more than twice as high as their human companions. Toxins in blood and urine samples gathered from dogs in the study included 11 carcinogens, 31 chemicals toxic to the reproductive system, and 24 neurotoxins. The carcinogens are of particular concern, since dogs have much higher rates of many kinds of cancer than do people, including skin cancer rates that are 35 times higher and breast tumor rates that are four times higher, eight times more bone cancer, and twice the incidence of leukemia, according to the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Center (2008). Between 20 and 25 percent of dogs die of cancer, making it the second leading cause of death in dogs according to a 2000 report from the Purdue University Department of Veterinary Pathobiology.

Tips to Keep Pets Healthy

Although these statistics can be overwhelming, there are simple ways to decrease the amount of chemicals in the home and provide a healthier atmosphere for all members of the family:

• Take shoes off at the door – a bonus here is cleaner floors. People often drag toxins in from the outdoors on the soles of their shoes.

• Use non-toxic cleansers in the home, particularly on floors and in bathrooms, where surface contact is frequent for pets and people.

• Resist using toxic spot cleaners and fresheners for pet beds. Instead, place an open container of baking soda near the bed to freshen, and use natural multi-purpose cleansers to spot clean.

Taking these few simple steps and using greener building materials when the opportunity arises can make a big difference in the quality of life of for all families and the pets who love them.

Ann LaGoy, the owner of Sound Earth, LLC, was prompted to developed a line of 100% natural, cruelty-free cleaning products after an acute reaction to chloromine gas poisoning in 1999. Currently, Sound Earth is New York State’s only manufacturer of such products. Ann continues to research the contents and effects of chemical cleaners on humans, animals and the environment. Visit to learn more, or contact

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