Don't bleach Fido

Pet Poison Helpline has seen a 100 percent increase in the number of calls from concerned pet owners about the potential misuse of common cleaning items including hand sanitizer, bleach and wipes on or near their pets during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent press release. Veterinary toxicologists are warning the public about the health hazards cleaning products can pose to animals, and what signs to watch for if an animal is exposed.

PRINCETON — According to a press release, the veterinary toxicology specialists at Pet Poison Helpline have seen a 100 percent increase in the number of calls from concerned pet owners about the potential misuse of common cleaning items including hand sanitizer, bleach and wipes on or near their pets during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People are very concerned about their families during this COVID-19 crisis,” Dr. Ahna Brutlag, DVM and senior veterinary toxicologist said. “That includes their pets. When we started receiving calls from panicked pet parents regarding possible poisonings related to COVID-19 cleaning fears, we felt we needed to educate the pet loving community on the safest way to do it.”

The Pet Poison Helpline released a video on Youtube, featuring Dr. Brutlag, with guidelines and advice for keeping a clean home while also protecting family pets from disinfectants. Dr. Brutlag gave the example of a pet walking through a spilled cleaning substance, like bleach. The external exposure can cause skin irritation, but when the pet licks their paws, it can cause internal exposure, which can cause stomach irritation, vomiting, diarrhea and other problems. In the video, Dr. Brutlag also advised against mixing bleach with any other cleaning agents, explaining that the combination of chemicals could be dangerous for pets and humans.

In addition, Dr. Brutlag explained how dangerous ingesting hand sanitizer can be to household pets because of the alcohol content. If they ingest enough of the substance, they could start showing symptoms in as quickly as a half hour. Dr. Brutlag advised calling the Pet Poison Helpline or the pet’s veterinarian as soon as possible.

As preventative measures, Dr. Brutlag recommended keeping pets separated from cleaning solutions whether that be in a different room or putting them in a crate. The video also instructs pet owners to dispose of paper towels with cleaning solutions on them in a covered trash can so that pets cannot access them.

While Dr. Bill Streit, Owner of All Creatures Veterinary Clinic, said he has not seen any pets poisoned by cleaning items, he worried he might when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“I may have had an animal that had walked through something and licked its paw and was drooling, but I do not think we have had any direct toxicological effect,” Dr. Streit said. “I have not had any personally where people have animals that have been exposed to things orally or topically. We were kind of watching for it to see if it would happen.”

Dr. Streit has not seen a case of pet poisoning during the COVID-19 pandemic, but he said the caseload at his clinic has gone up about 20 percent. His clinic is operating by offering curbside services, in compliance with CDC guidelines. “We just can’t catch a breath,” he said.

“I think people have been at home more and they are more in-tune with what their animals are doing and so maybe there is a little bit more astuteness on their part,” Dr. Streit said. “People are still coming in for the routine things but the sick things and the hurt things are constant. I think they are just watching more often.”

To aid the public in keeping their homes clean and their pets safe during COVID-19, Dr. Streit explained how he and his employees keep All Creatures Veterinary Clinic sanitary.

“What we usually do with our disinfectants here is we spray it on the surface and let it sit for ten minutes and then we go back and clean it back off with a wet paper towel,” Dr. Streit said. “If they did that in their home, I think it would minimize most accidental exposures.”

Dr. Streit highlighted the importance of separating pets from the area being cleaned and sanitized. He also explained how important it is to rinse surfaces that are accessible to pets after they have been sanitized.

“If there is an animal that could access it, you just need to keep the animal in a crate or in a room that has not had that treatment done to it until it is dry and preferably rinsed back off with a wet rag,” Dr. Streit said. “As far as accidental exposure, I think they can be prevented by making sure that the animal does not have access to that area until it has been disinfected, dried, wiped and dried back off.”

The Pet Poison Helpline’s video can be viewed at

Pet Poison Helpline is available 24 hours, seven days a week for pet owners and veterinary professionals who require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet. The staff provides treatment advice for poisoning cases of all species, including dogs, cats, birds, small mammals, large animals and exotic species. Pet Poison Helpline is available in North America by calling 800-213-6680.

— Contact Emily Rice at

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