Home improvement (with your pet) 101

Fourteen. That is precisely the number of how many paint chips and “inspirational” booklets of complementary paint colors that I have taped to my wall at this very moment in hopes that I’ll be able to settle on one (or more) to decorate my place.

My ever-uneasy dog sits beside me, keeping me constantly aware of paints that may be harmful to her either through ingestion or fumes.

Pets are quite sensitive to petroleum-based products, which includes some paint thinners and paints, as well as certain fuels, waxes and some pesticides. Oil-based or solvent-based paint is primarily used only on the outside of houses for its durability during seasons, but is also used in high-moisture areas in the home, such as kitchens and bathrooms.

It only takes a small amount for your pets to become affected by such products. If you believe your pet has ingested a petroleum-based product, immediately get them to the vet. Keeping pets in a designated room during painting projects will help decrease the probability of such an emergency trip.

As a side note, this type of paint can be harmful to humans as well, causing irritation to the eyes and skin. Please read and understand thoroughly any safety instructions provided on any paint can/bottle before use and keep the area properly ventilated.

When considering paints, look for non-toxic paints, which have low percentages of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that may be harmful to you or your pets. Non-toxic paints include low-VOC and zero-VOC paints and finishes, are water-based and do not have to be disposed of as hazardous waste. For more information, click here.

Also consider the finish of the paint. Even if your pets are regularly groomed, they may leave smudges or marks on walls and doors. Flat-finish paint is more difficult to clean, and you’d almost be better off sticking with repainting rather than wiping off a smudge. Semigloss, satin or eggshell finishes are easier to clean — although semigloss may call attention to dings or other imperfections in your wall due to its sheen finish.

But my spring to-do list isn’t confined just to my walls. I’m also in need of a major spring cleaning.

My dog is terrified of the vacuum, and I know to put her in a separate room when doing that sort of cleaning, but some of the common products I use for other cleaning can be just as damaging.

I need to keep an eye out for cleaners that have acid or alkaline in them — these may cause severe reactions. Products such as toilet bowl cleaners, drain cleaners and calcium/ruse/lime removers are among a few of those I need to ensure stay away from my dog.

Who could resist a face like that?

Other household products, like glass cleaners, carpet cleaners and other surface cleaners are generally considered safe, but it never hurts to keep them out of reach from curious pets.

Lastly, with the spring comes new recipes for me to try out. My dog always sits perched right beside me, staring at me with big eyes and asking for just a taste of whatever I’m having. While I’m occasionally guilty of giving human food to my pets, there’s some food that your pet should really avoid.

Chocolate is a pretty universal toxicant when it comes to pets, so ingestion of any amount merits a call to your veterinarian. But also consider that the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it can be. Chocolate, particularly baker’s chocolate, induces vomiting and diarrhea, and can also cause abnormal heart rhythms and seizures.

Other dangerous food items include avocados, caffeine, grapes and salt. A full list of dangerous food items for your pets can be found here. Reactions vary from mild to life-threatening, so it is a good rule of thumb to resist the urge to feed your pet human food … even if they are staring at you with big, endearing eyes.

Further reading: Seasonal allergies in pets and gardening with your pets (also in Spanish!)

Tomorrow: Poisonous medications for your pets

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