Did you know CO has no taste or smell and cannot be seen? How familiar are you with the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Did you know that carbon monoxide leaks can also affect pets too?

According to our annual survey, a third of the nation admitted they don’t have a carbon monoxide alarm in their home. Shockingly, 1 in 4 people in the UK believe it’s possible to see, smell, or taste carbon Monoxide.

Which is not true.

Fact

Carbon monoxide has no taste or smell and cannot be seen.

That’s why it’s so important to have a CO alarm – with BS Kitemark or to EN 50291 standard.

Can dogs detect carbon monoxide?

Some pets have been known to save their owners from potentially fatal carbon monoxide leaks but the best way to protect your family, including the furry members, is to ensure you have a working carbon monoxide alarm in your home.

You should also make sure to keep your household appliances regularly serviced, maintained and ensure they are adequately ventilated.

As our furry companions are smaller than us, carbon monoxide can affect them more rapidly and they can often be the first ones to show symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

This, surprisingly can mean the difference between life or death when it comes to noticing a CO leak but is no substitute for a carbon monoxide alarm. It is important to be aware of the dangers of CO and how to protect yourself and your pets.

Our survey found that one in 10 claimed their much-loved cat or dog has directly saved their life or the life of someone they know.

Cathy Jessop, 53, East Barnet

“I was very lucky as three years ago one evening, I passed out on the sofa whilst watching television and my seven year old Collie named Candy, licked me non-stop to wake me up. I was able to get up and went out for fresh air in good time.

I later found out that the gas fire was giving off high readings of carbon monoxide as was the cooker.”

Is carbon monoxide poisonous for pets - Candy the collie

Is carbon monoxide dangerous?

Yes, if undetected, carbon monoxide can be fatal.

Around 50 deaths a year occur from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.

4,000 people go to A&E and a further 200 people are hospitalised from CO poisoning a year in England and Wales (source) so we need to be cautious.

Carbon monoxide is often referred to as the ‘silent killer’, as it’s almost impossible to detect without either a CO alarm or other equipment such as a gas flue analyser. Carbon Monoxide can leak from a whole host of appliances in the home.

Sources of carbon monoxide include some of the usual suspects such as boilers and gas stoves, however, some of the less obvious appliances carbon monoxide can leak from include BBQs, wood stoves and even lawn mowers. More sources of carbon monoxide here.

8 reasons why carbon monoxide is dangerous

1. Dogs and cats and other pets in the home are in danger if carbon monoxide is not detected quickly

The smaller an animal or a person is, the faster they’ll be affected.

2. Carbon monoxide is a danger to everyone, but certain groups are more vulnerable than others.

Pregnant, elderly or family members with heart conditions and respiratory conditions such as asthma are particularly susceptible to effects of exposure to the toxic gas.

3. Prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide can cause death

50 people die a year from carbon monoxide poisoning.

4. The longer you are exposed to the carbon monoxide leak, the worse your symptoms will be

The symptoms won’t go away after a bit of rest like they do with regular headaches, although they may disappear temporarily if you leave the area where the leak is – for instance, if you go on holiday.

5. Carbon monoxide is very difficult to detect without a working CO alarm or equipment such as a flue gas analyser

It has no taste, smell and can’t be seen. If you don’t have an alarm the risk of prolonged exposure to the toxic gas is much higher and potentially life-threatening.

6. The early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can easily be confused with the common flu or a number of other illnesses

They can resemble food poisoning, viral infections, flu or tiredness. If you don’t’ pick up that there’s a carbon monoxide leak, you could end up prolonging your exposure to this dangerous gas.

7. Carbon monoxide can cause you to feel confused, tired or to lose consciousness

You could end up exposing yourself to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide if you’re unable to leave the house and get away from the source of the leak.

8. Carbon monoxide poisoning can have long-term effects on the body

Even non-fatal exposure, if untreated, could leave you with permanent brain damage, problems with memory, loss of vision or hearing and heart disease.

What to do if your carbon monoxide alarm goes off

Step 1. Switch off the appliance that you suspect is leaking carbon monoxide and don’t turn it back on until you’re told it’s safe by a Gas Safe registered engineer

Step 2. If you can, shut off the gas supply at the meter control valve. If carbon monoxide gas continues to escape call National Grid on the Gas Emergency Freephone Number 0800 111 999

Step 3. If you’re able to safely leave windows and doors open to ventilate your home as you leave then do so, do not sleep in it

Step 4. Leave your property

Step 5. Call the gas emergency number on 0800 111 999. Let them know you have a suspected carbon monoxide leak.

More information can be found on our Carbon Monoxide Safety hub pages.

What to do if you suspect you have carbon monoxide poisoning

According to the NHS website, here’s what you should do if you think you’ve been exposed to carbon monoxide.

Step 1. Stop using all appliances, switch them off, and open doors and windows to ventilate the property

Step 2. Evacuate the property immediately – stay calm and avoid raising your heart rate

Step 3. Call the gas emergency number on 0800 111 999 to report the incident, or the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Gas Safety Advice Line on 0800 300 363

Step 4. Don’t go back into the property – wait for advice from the emergency services

Step 5. Seek immediate medical help – you may not realise you’ve been affected by the carbon monoxide, and going outside into fresh air won’t treat any exposure by itself