Pet Parade: Protect pets during home improvements

By AL SWANSON  |  Oct. 31, 2010 at 5:30 AM
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We had some work done on our old house this fall; nothing major just some caulking, plastering and weatherizing for the winter.

We hired a professional handyman to do the work. I have never done plaster and I'd rather pay and have it done right the first time.

We put the dogs in a downstairs powder room and let the professional fixer-upper have at it. After a couple of hours the bored critters staged a jail break and were instantly upstairs playing with the stranger who was covered in plaster dust.

Damage was minimal -- just tracking around broken plaster on the carpet. A good vacuuming with a HEPA filter-equipped sweeper took care of the mess, but it could have been worse.

Home improvement projects can pose a major danger for pets from dogs to birds.

Paints may no longer contain lead but there are other heavy metals, and supplies like nails, bolts, screws, tacks and electrical cords on power tools could harm your pet.

Look for a warning on product labels. If a product can be "Harmful to Children" it most likely also is hazardous to pets.

After helping corral the dogs, the handyman told me some illustrative stories about accidents pets had caused on his jobs. There was a friendly yellow lab that knocked over a full can of white paint on a newly resurfaced driveway, and the cat that bounded though fresh cement, which can be corrosive to skin and can cause intestinal problems.

A lethargic year-old basset hound in Denver was X-rayed and an emergency vet found 32 roofing nails, a rabies tag and siding from the house in her stomach.

"We noticed one evening that she started throwing up," Carla Borck told KMGH-TV. "She wouldn't lie down, and that's pretty out of character for her."

Besides paint, other dangerous home improvement products include solvents, paint thinners, mineral spirits and glue and adhesives, which create potentially deadly fumes and can hurt an animal if ingested., a Web site on flooring, says potential home sellers should remove their pets from the premises when showing a home. That's also a good idea when doing major renovations.

Last year, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Animal Poison Control Center had more than 140,000 cases. The 24/7 center, which opened in 1978, has 30 veterinarians on call at 888-426-4435 and charges a $60 consultation fee.

The ASCPA warns about using rodenticides and insecticides as mice and spiders try to get inside as it gets colder outside. Also keep pets from munching on any mushrooms that may pop up in the yard during damp fall weather.

The pet experts at Purina recommend pet owners try a "pet's eye view" and get down on their knees to look around and see what a puppy or kitten can get into.

Kitchen garbage should be kept in a pet-proof container until disposed of, so should common household cleaning products like bleach and aerosols as well as home improvement materials.

The Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., tested more than 3,300 flooring and wall covering products for lead, bromine, chlorine, cadmium, arsenic, tin, phthalates and mercury and found many contained toxic chemicals restricted or banned in children's toys and products, said.

The materials included wood, bamboo, cork, carpet padding, sheet flooring, plastic and ceramic tile, and 11 brands of wallpaper.

The study said children and pets are more vulnerable to dangerous chemicals because they spend more time on the floor than adults. advised keeping toilet seats down, especially if you use automatic bowl cleaners.

Kittens and puppies have been known to jump into an open dryer.

Crates are great for protecting curious puppies from hazards and aging pets should be kept on the level ground. You can always provide a ramp for an old dog that's used to hopping in your easy chair but no longer is so spry.

In our house, baby gates are a godsend. We use three of them at times to limit roaming dogs.

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