Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, people are washing their hands more and the usage of hand sanitizers has dramatically increased. Hand sanitizers claim to ‘kill 99.9%’ of germs because of the high amount of alcohol (ethanol) they contain, but if large quantities were ingested by a dog or cat it could be deadly.
Most hand sanitizers are ethanol or isopropanol-based with some containing 95% alcohol. Just like other forms of alcohol, if a pet ingests too much ethanol it could be toxic.
It is important to disinfect surfaces and wash your hands, especially during the coronavirus outbreak, but there is a way to do it and keep your pets safe. First, do not apply hand sanitizer on your pets. As an extra precaution, allow the sanitizer to fully absorb or dry on your hands before petting your dog or cat, or allowing them to lick your hands. However, if your pet happened to lick your freshly sanitized hand it is unlikely they would be harmed – even though rumors are spreading on social media.
Pet owners panicked when people started to post that hand sanitizer had the same ingredients as antifreeze and it could kill your pet if they licked your hand.
Hand sanitizers contain ethanol not ethylene glycol, which is in antifreeze and very dangerous to humans and pets even in small quantities. While ethanol is not as toxic, the symptoms of poisoning are similar.
PetMD states, “The main symptom is a depressed central nervous system, which may develop 15 to 30 minutes after ingestion on an empty stomach, and up to two hours when ingested on a full stomach.”
Pet Poison Helpline said that if a pet were to ingest a large quantity of ethanol it could cause, “lethargy, vomiting, incoordination, weak respirations, and dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature. Severely intoxicated animals can potentially experience seizures and respiratory failure.”
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While most pets find hand sanitizer unpalatable, pet owners are still advised to store any product containing alcohol out of the reach of their dogs or cats.
Other products that contain alcohol are mouthwash, disinfectants, and cold medications. Be sure to keep all of them out of reach as well.
If your pet ingests any product that is high in alcohol or any other toxin, call your vet immediately. Other resources that are available in case of an emergency are Pet Poison Helpline at (800) 213-6680 and ASPCA Animal Poison Control at (888) 426-4435.
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