COVID-19, Disinfectants, and your pet’s health

By March 21, 2020 No Comments

We have seen a number of posts circulating that discuss the various means to destroy COVID-19 and how it relates to our pets’ health.  Some of these posts have contained misinformation that could lead pet owners to panic and limit use of products that are important in the fight against this dangerous virus.  We hope to help clarify some of this information.

First, a note on the use of disinfectants and hand sanitizers in general.

Washing your hands with soap and water is still one of the most effective defences against infection. Washing for a minimum of 20 seconds is very important.  Disinfectants and hand sanitizers will not work well if there is debris present. You need a surface clear of organic debris first before hand sanitizers, lysol, or other disinfectants will work well.  Given this fact, spraying or wiping disinfectants on your pet is not an effective strategy for any infectious diseases that may be lingering on your pet’s fur.

When you do use hand sanitizers or disinfectants, it’s important to let them dry COMPLETELY for it to have a full effect.


A note about pets and transmission of COVID-19

There is no evidence that pets can transmit COVID-19 in the way that humans directly transmit to each other, but there is the possibility that the virus could survive for a period of time on an animal’s fur.  The studies have not been done to determine the actual risk level of this so, at this time, we are advising to wash your hands and to limit your pet’s contact with others, especially if you are infected.


Hand sanitizer toxicity in pets

The primary ingredient in most hand sanitizer is alcohol (in concentrations of 60-85% depending on the product).  So yes, if your pet was to consume a large amount this could be very dangerous, similar to alcohol poisoning in humans.  Another compound that may be in hand sanitizer (though appears to not be in many of them) is propylene glycol. This is NOT the same as ethylene glycol which is found in some anti-freeze and is exceptionally toxic.  Cats do seem to be more sensitive to propylene glycol than other animals (this is true with many compounds) however the amount on your hands from applying hand sanitizer would not be sufficient to have adverse effects on your pet.  


Disinfectant sprays and wipes 

The main compounds of concern are phenols. Phenols can be in a number of products (including “ALL NATURAL” products – plants contain phenols in varying concentrations and essential oils tend to have a high concentration of phenols) and can be toxic if ingested or inhaled.  HOWEVER, while they used to be present in much higher levels in some products they are not commonly found and, when present, are typically in low enough concentrations that they are unlikely to be toxic with casual exposure. As with hand sanitizers, it’s best to allow the product to dry completely.  Aerosol sprays in general can be an irritant so best to avoid spraying in close proximity of your pets just as you would avoid spraying it too close to another human.


Bottom line

  • Do not allow your pet (or humans!) to consume larger quantities of these common disinfectants. It is generally unlikely that pets will want to consume these products; they do not taste good! But, we know that there are some animals out there that will eat just about anything, so if you have a pet like this, it’s best to keep this product out of reach.
  • Allow your hands and other treated surfaces to dry completely before your pet walks on them or before you handle anything
  • Avoid spraying aerosols too closely to your pet, your own face or that of other humans to avoid irritating the lungs.


If you follow these guidelines your pet will be ok and you will be more successful at limiting the transmission of COVID-19.  That being said, if you are ever concerned about any product your pet has ingested please contact us at 519-653-1003 or the pet poison hotline at 1-800 548-2423.  If you have a question about the safety of a particular cleaning product before you use it, please email us at [email protected] and we will respond as soon as possible.

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