Artists and Their Pets


Artists and Their Pets
by Beverley Bardell, 
Integrated K9 Services

As an artist, I have many items in and around my studio which my four legged friends share with me on a daily basis.

My dog and cat have never really bothered with my art supplies, but what if they did. Would they be safe or could they be in danger?

Various types of paint, varnish, lacquers, sealants, and stains can be caustic to the skin, mucous membranes, and gastrointestinal tract of both dogs and cats and the fumes from any or all of these substances are potentially harmful.

Do you ever work in wet media art or have paint palettes in and around your work area?

These items can also be a health risk to your pets. If your pets gain access to these substances, they may try licking the paints or end up with paint on their paws, which in turn can easily be transmitted to their mouth and eyes as they try to rid themselves of it. In this case they can damage their eyes and impair their vision and if enough paint is ingested, they can become extremely ill.
In addition, paint thinners and paintbrush cleaners, such as mineral spirits, turpentine, etc. can also cause severe burning and irritation to your pet’s eyes, skin, mucous membranes, and gastrointestinal tract, and again the fumes can be extremely harmful.


For those of us who may do ceramic work or tole painting the same principles apply. Brushes left standing in a container to dry, or in a container of solvent to remove paint from the bristles can be hazardous to your pets. Cats in particular tend to climb up on desks and tables and could easily nibble on the bristles of your paint brushes. Even though they may seem clean, they will still hold a certain amount of residue of paint or stain or a cleaning solvent, and any brushes left standing in a cleaning solution could very easily be knocked over. In this case your pet could not only ingest the liquid directly but will also carry any residue away on their paws which can be absorbed into the pads of their paws or licked off.

We should also consider the types of containers we use to store and hold our painting supplies. Glass is considered the best vessel to hold various solvents as it is not porous and will not allow any type of oil, as contained in certain plastics, to leach into your cleaners or brushes. However, if knocked over, the container will shatter and may cause severe cuts to your pet’s feet. So if we do use a glass container we should insure that it is very sturdy and situated in a place where it cannot be easily knocked over.

Harley---First-Day-HomeLastly we should look at the types of paper or canvas or greenware that we may be using for our projects. Many types of artist’s sketch pads or rice paper contain various types of chemicals in them so that the wet media we are using will not be absorbed entirely into the paper causing it to leach right through. Any pets who may be enticed to chew on the paper or canvas can ingest hazardous chemicals into their systems. Raw greenware that has not yet been fired can also contain various toxins that are harmful to your precious four legged friends.

‘So if your pets have access to your studio, please be sure that they are well supervised and not able to access any of your painting or art supplies. If an accident does happen, be sure you have your emergency vet’s number close at hand and be able to tell your vet exactly what your pet may have ingested so the proper medical procedures may be taken to save his or her life.

Are you an artist with furry friends?

Please share the names of you pets, their story and any shenanigans they’ve gotten themselves into.