Is Hand Sanitizer Toxic to Dogs?

Is Hand Sanitizer Toxic to Dogs?

A woman pours hand sanitizer into her cupped hand.A woman pours hand sanitizer into her cupped hand.
A woman pours hand sanitizer into her cupped hand.A woman pours hand sanitizer into her cupped hand.

Table of Contents:

  1. Signs of Hand Sanitizer Toxicity in Dogs
  2. Diagnosing Hand Sanitizer Toxicity in Dogs
  3. Treatment of Hand Sanitizer Toxicity in Dogs
  4. Home Care and Prevention

Hand sanitizer has become a staple in homes, cars, handbags, and offices. These alcohol-based solutions are great for keeping germs at bay, but they can also pose a danger to dogs 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 dogs.

Signs of Alcohol Poisoning in Dogs

Signs of alcohol poisonings include behavioral changes, collapse, depression or lethargy, and even death.

  • 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
  • Depression
  • Excessive urination and/or urinary incontinence
  • Slow or weak respiratory rate
  • Low body temperature
  • Cardiac arrest

Diagnosing Hand Sanitizer Toxicity in Dogs

If you suspect alcohol poisoning, contact your vet immediately. The longer you wait the more serious the condition can become, so do not wait or assume your dog 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 Dogs

Emergency veterinary care is necessary for dogs with alcohol poisoning. Treatment may include:

  • Gastrointestinal detoxification with activated charcoal
  • Intravenous fluid therapy with electrolytes, dextrose (sugar), and sodium bicarbonate to treat/correct fluid and electrolyte abnormalities, hypoglycemia, and acidosis
  • Ventilation/respiratory support in those with depressed respiratory function
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation if cardiac arrest occurs

Home Care and Prevention

It is far easier to prevent hand sanitizer ingestion than it is to treat alcohol poisoning. Do not leave bottles of sanitizer within your dog’s reach, including travel bottles stored in or on purses or backpacks. Watch your dog closely, and call your veterinarian if you notice any unusual behavior. If you witness your dog ingesting ethanol, contact your veterinarian at once, even before the onset of any clinical signs.

We hope this has helped you learn more about hand sanitizer toxicity in dogs.

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