Hand sanitizer has become a regular part of life; most of us carry it with us anytime we leave the house. But as we increase our use of hand sanitizer anytime we aren’t able to immediately access soap and water, it’s important to remember that while hand sanitizer can keep us safe, it is a chemical, and we want to be careful with it around our dogs. Here’s what dog guardians should know about the use of hand sanitizer around dogs.
Different brands of hand sanitizer will have different active ingredients, as well as scents and colors added. It’s always a good idea to look at the ingredients of any hand sanitizer you are purchasing and using most commercial hand sanitizers on the market are alcohol-based, which you want to keep out of reach from your dog, and you absolutely should not use hand sanitizer on your dog’s paws or coat.
Dr. Tina Wismer, DVM, Senior Director, ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center explains that while it is perfectly safe for dog guardians to use hand sanitizer, “when using hand sanitizers, refrain from petting your dog until your hands are completely dry.”
Dr. Wismer notes that thankfully “once the hand sanitizer has evaporated, it is safe to touch your pets without concern.” So, if you are out on a walk with your dog and need to use hand sanitizer, make sure that you give yourself time after applying hand sanitizer for it to dry before pulling out dog treats to feed your dog or directly handling your dog.
The biggest concern for dogs with hand sanitizer is that most commercially available hand sanitizer is alcohol-based, and hand sanitizer does not contain ethylene glycol, the toxic ingredient of antifreeze. Dr. Stacey Rebello, DVM, MS Medical Emergency department Director at NorthStar Vets, explains that with the alcohol component, “if ingested we would expect gastrointestinal upset including vomiting, drooling, and diarrhea.”
If a dog does drink a large quantity of hand sanitizer, the impacts could be more serious. “In the instance of large volume ingestion, it would be feasible to see evidence alcohol toxicity,” notes Dr. Rebello, who explains that in this instance, symptoms would look like “disorientation, wobbliness when walking, depression, low body temperature, slowed breathing/heart rate.”
Although it isn’t good for dogs to ingest hand sanitizer, the good thing is that unlike some other toxic substances or foods that dogs tend to be very attracted to, for the most part, hand sanitizer isn’t something most dogs will want to drink. “Most dogs will stray away from ingesting large amounts of hand sanitizer as the bad taste will keep them away,” advises Dr. Wismer. If your dog comes in contact with your hands still went from hand sanitizer or other small amounts of hand sanitizer, Dr. Wismer advises that “the main symptom to watch for is excessive drooling. The drooling usually comes from the bad taste of hand sanitizer.”
Although most dogs will be turned off from eating hand sanitizer because of the bad flavor, if your dog does ingest hand sanitizer, it’s important to seek veterinary care. “If your pet ingests hand sanitizer, we would recommend calling ASPCA Poison Control and having them evaluated by your veterinarian,” advises Dr. Rebello.
To help protect your dog, the best way to prevent your dog from coming in contact with hand sanitizer. Like any other chemical, it’s a good idea to keep your hand sanitizer stored in a cabinet or other location that your dog isn’t able to access. If, like me, you are now carrying hand sanitizer attached to your purse or treat pouch for cleaning your hands when out with your dog, make sure when you get home that you also store your bag with the hand sanitizer out of reach of curious canines.
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