Paints & Pets

Picture of French Bulldog on a blue background

If you have a pet, make sure the paint in non-toxic

You might think that paint is paint and never give a thought to what you buy to spruce up your walls. If you have pets, however, buying just any old paint can be dangerous. In fact, most paints are toxic to pets.

You’re probably careful about the food you buy for your pets and the chemicals you use on your lawn, so it’s important to be careful about the paint you use in your home, too.

Dangers of traditional paints

Traditional paints often contain a mix of toxic chemicals such as heavy metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and solvents. These chemicals can release toxic gases which can harm your pets.

Symptoms of exposure to the gases can include irritation to your pet’s eyes, skin, and airways which can cause him or her to become dazed or dizzy. In some cases a pet can lose hair all over their body from exposure to these gases.

Other similar products which can be dangerous to your pets include paint remover, varnishes, and mineral spirits or paint thinner.

Even if you keep your doors and windows open while you are painting or while the paint is drying to allow the harmful gases to escape, this sometimes isn’t enough to protect your pets. In fact, pets are most susceptible to the gases while the paint is drying. The fumes from the paint can go on being released long after the paint has dried.

In addition, the gasses are not the only issue. Some pets can be tempted to lick or eat paint either from a can of paint or from the wall, after it’s dried. Many pets are notorious for chewing on baseboards, railings, and doors, all of which might be covered in paint.

Safe, non-toxic paints

Fortunately, there are some non-toxic paints today. These paints contain few or none of the harmful chemicals found in traditional paints so they don’t pose the same risks to your pet.

Not all of these paints are labeled as “pet-safe,” but you can usually identify the non-toxic paints by checking their ingredients. In general, you should look for paints that are water-based rather than solvent-based. Look for paints that don’t contain heavy metals or creosote. And look for paints which have few or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

If you aren’t confident about reading paint labels and identifying these ingredients, you can simply look for paints that are labeled “pet-safe.”

You can do some research to find out which paints other pet owners have used successfully. For example, ECOS Paints  is often recommended for pet owners. Their paints are non-toxic and specifically formulated for places where pets will be. Their paints have zero volatile organic compounds and they do not add toxic solvents such as formaldehyde or toluene to their paints, which can be released in the indoor air. This makes them safer for you, your pets, and the environment.

“Milk” paints are another option and, yes, they do contain “milk.” Or at least some milk protein. They are made from the milk protein casein, lime, and pigments. This kind of paint was made prior to acrylic and latex paints which have added chemicals. Milk paints are water-based, environmentally-friendly, and non-toxic. There are no weird fumes and they are pet-safe. The Real Milk Paint Company sells these paints.

(If you are wary of using a milk paint, consider that Renaissance painters mixed pigment with egg to create paints.)

The downside to using milk paint is that it has to be used quickly. It comes in a powdered form that you mix with water. After you mix it, you have to use it within a short time frame or it won’t be usable. It’s best to look for milk paint mixes that will last longer than one day and that won’t congeal.

Pet-safe paints are worth it

You may find that pet-safe paints cost a little more than traditional paints. This is often true when companies don’t use chemicals. But when you consider the peace of mind you will have and the safety these paints will provide for your pet, you will probably agree that they are worth a little extra cost.



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