Hand sanitizer can be toxic at cats. Hand sanitizer has become a staple in homes, cars, handbags, offices, restroom and even when you enter supermarkets. These alcohol-based solutions are great for keeping germs at bay, but they can also pose a danger to animals that encounter them.
The majority of hand sanitizers on the market contain ethanol (a type of alcohol used for sanitization) in addition to artificial colors and fragrances. Ingestion of these materials can cause what veterinarians call dose dependent symptoms; that is, the more sanitizer ingested, the worse the symptoms will be. Just a small amount of sanitizer can induce alcohol poisoning in some pets.
Dogs tend to chew on and lick/eat the bottle but cats more frequently walk through a spilled bottle or are petted by owners with hand sanitizer on their hands. Cats then lick/groom their paws thus ingesting the toxin.
Signs of alcohol poisonings in cats include behavioral changes, collapse, depression or lethargy, and even death.
Signs of Alcohol Toxicity in Cats
- Odor of alcohol on the animal’s breath or vomit
- Staggering or lack of coordination
- Extreme decrease of activity or lack of movement
- Drastic increase in excitement for no reason
- Excessive urination and/or urinary incontinence
- Slow or weak respiratory rate
- Low body temperature
- Cardiac arrest
Diagnosing Alcohol Poisoning in Cats
If you suspect alcohol poisoning in your cat, contact your vet immediately. The longer you wait the more serious the condition can become, so do not wait or assume your cat will get better on their own.
A diagnosis of alcohol poisoning usually reveals the following:
- Baseline tests, including complete blood count and biochemical profiles, are generally within normal limits. In rare cases hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) may be identified.
- Blood gas analysis usually reveals acidosis (accumulation of acid in the body).
- Testing blood ethanol concentration is the only means of definitively diagnosing alcohol poisoning; it is a very common test available in most human laboratories.
Treatment of Hand Sanitizer Toxicity in Cats
Emergency veterinary care is necessary for cats with alcohol poisoning.
Treatment from your veterinarian may include:
- Intravenous fluid therapy with electrolytes, dextrose (sugar), and sodium bicarbonate to treat/correct fluid and electrolyte abnormalities, hypoglycemia, and acidosis
- Gastrointestinal detoxification with activated charcoal
- Ventilation/respiratory support in those with depressed respiratory function
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation if cardiac arrest occurs