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A Guide to Pet Safety During Home Renovations and Remodeling

From tearing down walls and hiring professional painters to lifting carpets and removing nails, you'll likely have several things going on in your home during a renovation. The last thing you’ll want to worry about is where your pet is. Young, mischievous, or startled pets could easily begin barking, get into things they shouldn’t, or run out the door. A home renovation can be stressful for both you and your pet.

In order to help alleviate that stress, consider the advice outlined below.

Dangers/Hazards to Pets During Home Renovations

There are various potential dangers and hazards presented to pets during a home renovation or remodel. Knowing what these hazards are is the first step to preventing them from harming your pet.

Below are a few of the dangers to pets to be aware of during a home renovation:

Noise and Foot Traffic

During a home renovation, contractors will be walking in and out of your house, shouting back and forth between rooms, and using generally loud power tools. This kind of noise and foot traffic could lead to several adverse events. The opening and closing of doors could lead to pets getting loose. Food traffic could cause pets to get trampled if they’re in the way. Loud noises could upset young, old, or anxious pets.

Animals react differently to fear. Some may become territorial and potentially bark at, scratch, or bite workers. Others may grow startled and run out of the house. Some may even become anxious and have an accident in the house.

Heavy Items

Contractors will likely be moving furniture, cinder blocks, wood, glass, or other heavy items during a home renovation. Startled pets and heavy items can be a bad combination. You’ll want to make sure your pet is in a safe and secure place during a renovation in order to keep them away from these hazards.

Poisonous and Hazardous Materials

Adhesives, cleaning materials, paints, and nails, for instance, are just a few items that pose a hazard to a pet’s wellbeing during a renovation. These items could either be genuinely poisonous or pose a choking hazard. What’s more, pets' natural curiosity doesn’t mix well with the presence of toxic hazards. Dogs or cats, for instance, may be tempted to lick fresh paint off the walls — or even walk through worksites and find paint on themselves when grooming.

Here’s a list of poisonous and hazardous materials often found during a home renovation:

  • Paints: Whether or not paint is harmful to your pet depends on its type. Lead paint is known to be extremely harmful, while paints without lead generally only cause mild irritation. For paints without lead, ingesting or inhaling a small amount is likely to pose no effect — relative to the size of your pet — other than mild gastrointestinal upset. Larger ingestions could result in nausea or vomiting. If your home renovation included painting, it is recommended that you use eco-friendly paint and painting services as this is less harmful to your health than conventional paints.
  • Nails, wood chips, small pieces: Any kind of small pieces that pets could put in their mouths has the potential to become a choking hazard. Nails, wood chips, and other small pieces may be appealing to dogs, cats, or even birds. But these items are harmful to their health in a variety of ways. If your dog swallows a sharp object, go to the vet immediately. If your pet swallows a different foreign object, it may be possible to perform first aid. Wood chips and other foreign objects may also have toxic chemicals in them, making it a good idea to opt for sustainable home decor following your home renovation.
  • Chemicals: Poisonous chemicals at home renovation work sites include cleaning materials, adhesives, as well as the chemicals in paint and wood, as discussed in the bullet points above. Exposure to such chemicals does not have to occur solely through ingestion. Pets are also at risk when in a room with these chemicals, especially if doors and windows are closed.
  • Plants: There are a variety of plants that are poisonous to pets. It’s generally a good idea to be aware of what plants are poisonous to pets. If any plants are in your home, there’s a good chance they will be shifted around and potentially put in reach of your pets during the renovation. Poisonous plants, like paints, affect an animal's gastrointestinal tract. They may cause a mild to severe upset stomach, as well as vomiting.

Call your local vet immediately if your pet has inhaled or consumed one of these hazardous materials.

Creating a Pet-Friendly/Safe Environment

Creating a pet-friendly/safe environment may involve introductions, creating a safe space with familiar toys and bedding, or boarding your pet at a pet hotel. There are a few different options suitable for different pets and situations.

It is important to make a decision as to whether or not your pet would be safer and happier at home or boarded at a pet hotel or daycare. Some pets may enjoy being boarded, while others may be more comfortable staying at home. Sociable, playful pets may have a blast at a pet hotel — and ease your worries about them running into trouble during the renovation. Other pets may not enjoy boarding as much, or may not need it as much. Older pets, for instance, may not get in the way of contractors or have much interest in the commotion at all. Younger pets, on the other hand, may get into more trouble.

You’ll also want to consider how long the renovation is when deciding the best place to house your pet. For longer renovations, daycare or home may be the better options, as the cost of a pet hotel can add up. If you have close family, friends, or neighbors, you may also want to ask if you can keep your pet with them for a little bit. Another option is to hire a pet sitter.

If you decide to bring your pet to a pet hotel for the whole duration of the renovation, you can ignore most of the information included below. If you decide to keep your pet at home, send them to daycare, or hire a pet sitter, consider the following guide on creating a pet-friendly, safe environment for your loved ones.

Introductions

If you decide to keep your pet at home for most of the renovations, it is generally a good idea to do introductions between your pet and the contractors working in your home. Becoming more familiar with each other may ease the anxieties of both your pet and the contractors.

Create a Safe-Space/Containment Room

You’ll also want to create a safe-space or containment room for your pet. This will keep them away from trouble while your home is renovated.

  • An isolated room away from noise and chaos: While you don’t want your pet to be alone for the renovation, you do need to make sure they are isolated from the worksite. Protect them from the noise and chaos by designating a room for them in your home.
  • Familiar toys, bedding, treats, crates, etc: Fill the room with familiar toys, bedding, and treats to keep them happy and comfortable.
  • Regular check-ins: Regularly check-in on your pets and take them outside for walks and bathroom breaks.
  • Leave a TV on: Leave a TV on for your pets to fill the room with familiar sounds. Some pets enjoy watching the Animal Planet channel.

Pet Hotels and Pet-Sitters

As discussed previously, pet owners have a few options outside of keeping their pets at home for the whole duration of a home renovation. Pet owners can decide whether they want to board their pets, hire pet sitters, or ask family, friends, or neighbors for help. There are pros and cons to each option, as there are situations in which one may be more suitable than the other.

Consider each of the options below:

  • Boarding Options: Explore local boarding options if it’s going to be a long-term renovation or if your pet is younger and more risk-prone. Boarding options may include overnight stays or daycare. Since overnight boarding can become expensive, you may opt for daycare only.
  • Pet-sitters and dog-walking services: Pet-sitters and dog-walking services can be utilized to get your pet out of the house for short-term intervals. These services are a good option for smaller or shorter home renovations. They also may be a more cost-effective option.
  • Family, friends, or neighbors: It never hurts to ask for a little help with your pet. For shorter home renovations, consider asking family, friends, or neighbors to pet sit during the day or overnight. Loved ones that already have pets may have no issue taking on one more.

If you're going to put your pet in a daycare facility or hire a pet sitter, remember that you still need to pet-proof your home. Contractors may not fully clean up their worksites each day, meaning it’s still your responsibility to keep pets out of trouble during the night.

Providing Distractions

For pets that are kept at home during a renovation, it is important to keep them distracted and entertained.

  • Extended playtime: take your pet out for an extended walk, throw the ball a few extra times, or let them roam around outside a bit longer than usual.
  • Walks: going for a walk can be a great way to burn off extra energy as well as to relieve some general anxiety.
  • Toys: chew toys that are designed to be extra tough, toys that are puzzles with treats hidden inside, and items like scratch posts are great ways to keep your pets busy and distracted.

Pet Resources for Home Renovations

There are various pet resources to have on hand during a home renovation. Resources include vet phone numbers, emergency vet helplines, and guides on animal health literacy. These resources are critical for knowing how to avoid accidents, as well as how to handle one if it should arise.

Many of the resources listed below recommend contacting your vet first. This is because they know your pet’s medical history best and can usually give you the most suitable advice.

Below is a list of resources:

  • ASPCA: Emergency Care For Your Pet - The ASPCA offers general guidance to emergency care for pets on their website. The guide recommends finding out your vet’s emergency protocol and looking for a local clinic with 24/7 emergency services. It also teaches what signs of distress to look for in pets and how to perform first aid at home.
  • FDA’s Center For Veterinary Medicine (CVM) - The FDA’s Center For Veterinary Medicine provides a list of phone numbers to call in the event of an emergency, as well as recommends speaking to your local vet.
  • PetPlace - PetPlace answers the question as to when you should call your emergency vet hotline.
  • VCA Hospitals - VCA Hospitals provides a guide on paint and varnish poisoning for dogs and cats.
  • Five Star Painting: Eco-friendly Paints - Five Star Painting offers a guide to safe paint alternatives for sensitive groups such as seniors and people with respiratory problems, as well as for pets. People with pets may want to opt for eco-friendly paints as they don’t contain the same hazardous chemicals as traditional paints do.