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Remodeling with Pets in Mind

Keep pets safe during construction projects created for man’s best friend.

During a construction project, homeowners should keep pets away from the construction site.

During a construction project, homeowners should keep pets away from the construction site.

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Architect George R. Bott of Anthony Wilder Design/Build, Inc. was able to create a nook for the dog’s food and water bowls, as well as storage space for his supplies and accessories in an Arlington home.

Home remodeling projects often come after considerable planning and expense. One factor that can be overlooked is the family pet. While the end result of a remodel is often a new, updated or enlarged living space, the road to that improvement is often filled with dust, debris and inconvenience — which can be upsetting and even dangerous to dogs and cats.

Homeowners should be aware of the added traffic that comes with a construction project. “The biggest risk during a construction project could be that the pet could escape because workers might not be aware of doors or gates or windows being left open,” said Carol Petit, hospital manager at VCA Old Town Animal Hospital in Alexandria.

“There are many more cars and trucks going back and forth,” said Josh Baker, founder and co-chairman, BOWA in McLean. “The driveway should be off limits to pets.”

Actually, the entire construction zone should be off limits. “Pets, especially dogs, will eat anything,” said Petit. “There are construction materials. They could eat leftover food from construction workers, which could be toxic or contribute to weight issues, depending on the pet.”

Additionally, “dust can affect eyes and lungs just as it can in humans,” said Petit. “Home improvement project materials like paint and glue can be toxic. It can be the fumes, or if the dog or cat licks paint, it could be lethal.”

“If any pet owners feel that their pet is acting oddly or like they might have consumed something that they shouldn’t have, the best solution is to take them to the vet to make sure that everything is OK,” she said.

Petit added that pets could become fearful because strangers are in the home. That fright, she said, could either increase separation anxiety or trigger a pet’s basic protection instinct, leading him to become aggressive.

“There are a lot of things to consider,” said Baker. “It's not unlike thinking about small children.”

AND WHILE THINKING about pets, some builders incorporate features into a home project designed specifically for a pet.

One set of clients “wanted to be able to cordon off the tiled area off the side entrance, to contain the dog when he comes in wet or dirty,” said Danielle Frye of Anthony Wilder Design/Build, Inc. in Cabin John, Md., referring to a recent kitchen and mudroom renovation. “It also provides a dedicated place where he can eat without damaging the new hardwood floors in the kitchen.”

Architect George R. Bott was able to create a nook for the dog’s food and water bowls, as well as storage space for his supplies and accessories. In fact, say builders, pet feeding stations can incorporate modern conveniences and high-end materials.

“We can add custom cabinetry,” said Baker. “We can bring in a waterline to supply instead of having to refill the water bowl in the kitchen. There is also potential automation where the bowl is kept full.”

Mudrooms and garages can be designed to include pet bathing spaces as well. “In terms of showers, they’re custom built with a hand held sprayer so you can control the temperature,” said Baker. “We can also choose a height so you can reach it without hurting your back while you’re bathing the dog.”