In light of COVID-19, veterinarians are increasingly having to warn pet parents against the use of anti-bacterial and disinfectant products on pets.

COVID-19: warnings against using hand-sanitisers on pets

As the days and weeks roll by under the “new norm” of COVID-19, veterinarians have been receiving an increasing number of questions about the coronavirus and its effects on pets.

At present, very few animals have contracted COVID-19. Those that have have either shown no symptoms at all, or only mild symptoms. All have been under the care of specialist facilities monitoring their health. There is also no scientific evidence demonstrating that our pets can transmit COVID-19.

Many concerned pet parents, however, think that their animal should be disinfected to eliminate all chances of contracting COVID-19. This way of thinking has led some to use products such as alcohol-based hand sanitisers, detergents and even bleach to “clean” their pets. It is vital to point out that these behaviours are highly dangerous to animals. Any human-grade cleaning product should never be used on our pets!

Questions being asked

Common questions being asked of vets, or worse online, include: "How do I disinfect my dog after taking it for a walk?", "What should I put on her tongue because she licked the ground?", and "What should I put on his paws? What can I clean him completely with?"

The simple answer is: nothing you would use on a human!

One veterinary practice in France was astounded to receive a message asking them if the person could bleach their pet! Additionally, Internet users have been posting photos of animals’ paws burnt by alcohol-based gels, disinfectants and bleach. The response has been swift and damning, despite being too late for the now injured animals.

But it is not just the external injuries that some of these chemicals can cause. Animals often lick products applied to their skin or coat as a way of trying to rid themselves of the foreign product. The chemicals in these creams and solutions can cause a range of injuries including burns, irritation of the respiratory mucous membrane, alcohol poisoning, nervous system and heart problems, and even kidney failure.

Also read: The 10 toxins most consumed by pets in 2015

Keeping your pet clean: what you can do

If your pet has come into contact with a known coronavirus hotspot or has interacted with someone who is ill or suffering from COVID-19, wiping their coat with a disposable cloth will help to absorb any particles that may have come into contact with their fur. If necessary, you can also wash your pet with pet-friendly shampoo. Please remember to never use human shampoo on your animal. Like with cleaning products, these can be harmful to your pet’s delicate skin.

If you’ve been out for a walk with your pet, a regular paw clean with pet-friendly soap will suffice. This is likely to be a common routine in your household anyway, so continue to follow the same rules. Again, only use products designed for your pet and never for humans!

You too can also wash your hands thoroughly after interacting with your pet. Additionally, try avoid letting your pet lick your face during this period. If they do, simply use soap to thoroughly wash the part of you they licked. But remember, there’s no need to be irrational in your fear - as yet there is no scientific evidence to show that pets can transmit the virus to humans.

Finally, continue to respect social-distancing rules and keep at least a 1m distance between yourselves (you and your pet) and other people and animals. Remember to regularly wash your hands and avoid petting any animal that doesn't belong to you.

And of course, if you're ever in doubt or worried, please contact your vet (online veterinary support is also available) before trying anything yourself.

Stay safe everyone!

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