19 Beauty Products That Could Harm Your Pet

Written by:

PetMD Editorial
Published: July 19, 2016

19 Beauty Products That Could Harm Your Pet


By Helen Anne Travis


From tweezers to toothpastes, hand sanitizers to hairspray, the products we use everyday to primp and preen could prove harmful to our pets. Here are 21 beauty products to store well out of your cat or dog’s reach.



Image: Jurij Krupiak / Shutterstock

Body Soaps

“Many popular body soaps contain non-ionic and anionic detergents, which may be toxic for pets,” says Dr. Stephanie Flansburg-Cruz, a licensed veterinarian practicing in Mexico. These detergents can cause eye irritations and stomach problems. Excessive salivation, vomiting and diarrhea are all symptoms of toxicity. If you suspect your pet has ingested body soap or shower gel, make a veterinary appointment. Glansburg-Cruz says that treatment in some cases may include medication to control vomiting and to protect the stomach and intravenous fluid therapy to correct dehydration. 

Image: Mat Hayward / Shutterstock

Curling Irons and Hair Straighteners

Curling irons and hair straighteners can reach temperatures of over 400 degrees. Keep hot irons away from pets, and make sure you unplug them when not in use, says Dr. Barrack.

Image: Voyagerix / Shutterstock

Razors, Scissors and Tweezers

“These sharp tools can result in painful cuts or punctures,” says Dr. Rachel Barrack of New York City’s Animal Acupuncture. Store them safely out of your pet’s reach.

Image: Arfan Afzal / Shutterstock


Some sunscreens contain zinc oxide, which can irritate a dog’s gastrointestinal tract if ingested. In most cases, dogs will intermittently vomit for a few hours after ingestion and then return to normal, but bring your pup to the vet if she has bloody diarrhea and/or vomit, which can be a sign of intestinal damage, says Barrack. Zinc oxide is also used in some diaper rash formulas, so keep those far from your pets as well.

Image: Mybona / Shutterstock

Makeup Sponges

Because of its round shape, pets may think your foundation-covered sponge is a toy. If accidentally ingested, makeup applicators could cause a gastrointestinal obstruction, which may require surgery. If your makeup sponge turns up missing, monitor your pet for vomiting and dehydration.

Image: Viktoriya Pavlyuk / Shutterstock


Don’t use human shampoo on your pet, warns Dr. R.J. Kraemer, who owns Vet4HealthyPet Advanced Medical Care in Orange, Calif. These can dry out your furry friend’s skin at best. At worst, the shampoos may contain harmful non-ionic and anionic detergents that could prove dangerous to your pets if ingested. To clean your pet's skin and coat, you can try dog shampoo or cat shampoo

Image: Africa Studio / Shutterstock

Muscle Creams

Salicylates are an anti-inflammatory ingredient found in creams and rubs designed to help with muscle soreness. They can be toxic to pets, says Barrack, and could result in gastrointestinal ulcers if ingested in large amounts. Bring your pet to the vet if she has diarrhea or is vomiting (with or without blood).

Image: Voyagerix / Shutterstock


Most toothpaste contains sodium fluoride, which is excellent at protecting human teeth but can be toxic to pets. “You should never use a human toothpaste to brush your dog’s teeth,” says Flansburg-Cruz.  Because dogs swallow toothpaste rather than spit it out, they can ingest potentially toxic amounts over time. Instead, use toothpaste that is pet-friendly, like dog toothpaste or cat toothpaste.

Image: Ermolaev Alexander / Shutterstock

Nail Glue

Most fake nail glues contain polyurethane, says Flansburg-Cruz. If ingested, your pet may experience vomiting, stomach pain, and lack of appetite and energy. It could take anywhere from 15 minutes to 20 hours for your pet to show signs of toxicity. “Inducing vomiting is not often recommended,” says Dr. Flansburg-Cruz. If something caustic is ingested, inducing vomiting may damage the esophagus, which is difficult to repair, she says.  

Image: dean bertoncelj / Shutterstock

Steroid Creams

Topical creams designed to help relieve itchy skin can harm your pets if they’re ingested or large amounts are absorbed through the animal’s skin over a prolonged period of time. This can result in endocrine disorders, says Barrack. Call your vet or the pet poison control hotline if you think your pet has had potentially dangerous contact with a steroid cream.

Image: motorolka / Shutterstock

Hair Mousse

Hair mousse contains ingredients like acetic acid, aluminum sulfate, hydrochloric acid, and sulfuric acid. These can cause tissue damage if ingested or absorbed through your animal’s skin, says Kraemer. Signs of intoxication include skin ulcers, oral ulcers, vomiting with or without blood, abdominal pain, nervous system problems, and coughing. If you observe any of these signs you should take your pet to the nearest veterinary clinic, says Dr. Kraemer. In cases of intoxication with acid substances, it is not recommended to induce vomiting.

Image: kitzcorner / Shutterstock

Tea Tree Oil

Thanks to its antiseptic properties, tea tree oil is a popular ingredient in many beauty products. But be careful using it around your pets. “As little as seven drops of oil have caused poisoning,” says Flansburg-Cruz. Poisoned animals will appear weak, uncoordinated and may have tremors.

Image: JPC-PROD / Shutterstock

Hair Growth Products

Minoxidil, found in many hair growth products, can cause severe cardiac issues—including heart failure and death—if ingested, says Barrack. Keep these sealed and out of reach of pets.

Image: Early Spring / Shutterstock


Many mouthwashes (and sugar free gums, candies, cough syrups and breath mints) contain a sugar substitute called xylitol. It’s completely safe for humans, but it’s extremely toxic for dogs, says Flansburg-Cruz. “Small amounts of xylitol can dangerously decrease your dog’s blood sugar levels, and cause seizures, liver failure and death,” she says. Poisoned dogs often exhibit symptoms within 30 minutes of consumption. These include vomiting, weakness, difficulty standing, depression, tremors, seizures, and coma. If your dog ingests any amount of xylitol bring her to the veterinarian immediately.

Image: Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock

Nail Polish

Some nail polishes contain toluene and formaldehyde, ingredients that can upset your pets’ tummies. “For this reason it is not advisable to paint your pet’s nails,” says Flansburg-Cruz.

Image: baibaz / Shutterstock

Nail Polish Remover

Another reason not to paint your dog’s nails: many nail polish removers contain acetone. Acetone is a volatile ingredient that could cause skin, mucous membrane and lung problems in your pet, says Kraemer. 

Image: Africa Studio / Shutterstock


Many deodorant brands contain aluminum, which can be toxic to pets, says Flansburg-Cruz. “If a curious pet ingests a small amount of deodorant or if, for some reason, she has skin contact with the product and then licks it off, she may experience stomach upset,” she says. If your pet is vomiting, bring her to the veterinarian immediately.

Image: any_keen / Shutterstock

Hand Sanitizers

“These products are very effective in killing viruses and bacteria because they have a large amount of isopropyl alcohol, which is an antiseptic,” says Flansburg-Cruz. But what’s good for keeping away germs is bad for your pets’ health. “One of the main concerns with volatile substances like alcohol is the risk of aspiration pneumonia,” she says. Ingesting even a small amount of hand sanitizer is also very irritating to a pet’s gastrointestinal tract. Keep sanitizers away from pets and let your hands dry fully before playtime.

Image: vadym94 / Shutterstock