The hand sanitizers, disinfecting wipes and cleaning products that people havebeen buying and using during the COVID-19 pandemic have caused a spike incalls to veterinary toxicology specialists.

As people spend more time at home with their pets and more time cleaning andsanitizing their homes, the Pet Poison Hotline is reporting a 100 percentincrease in the number of telephone calls from pet owners concerned abouttoxic chemicals in common household cleaning products, especially alcohol orbleach.

The hotline is not reporting an increase in pet deaths but cautions people tobe careful.

Dogs and cats can lick cleaners and sanitizers out of bottles and containersor lick their paws after walking on surfaces where alcohol- or bleach-basedproducts have pooled or puddled, risking internal damage. Those substances canalso cause irritation and swelling to paws. Owners also need to securelydispose of cleanser-soaked paper towels that have been used to clean surfaces.Many dogs like to steal paper from the trash and shred and eat it.

This information from the Pet Poison Hotline has been shared by BluePearlSpecialty and Emergency Pet Hospital, which operates Pittsburgh VeterinarySpecialty & Emergency Centers in Ohio Township and Peters.

The top tip is to put pets in a crate or another room when cleaning andsanitizing. Don’t bring animals back until floors and surfaces are dry. Keepthe products safely stored away from pets and children.

Though many of these products are generally non-life-threatening, large dosescan lead to vomiting, hypersalivation, abdominal pain, and in some cases,seizures or respiratory failure, said Dr. Alex Blutinger, a critical careveterinary specialist at BluePearl.

Quick action is needed when pets ingest something poisonous, said Dr. RachelSmith, internal medicine specialist and medical director of the PVSEC Southoffice in Peters. A delay in treatment can cause life-threatening damage tointernal organs, usually the liver or kidneys.

Be wary of household cleaners containing hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol,bleach, ammonia and phenols, which are found in many disinfectant sprays andtoilet bowel cleaners. Many people keep 3% hydrogen peroxide in the house toto induce vomiting in dogs that have eaten something that is bad for them,such as grapes, raisins or chocolate.

Never induce vomiting in a dog without first talking to your veterinarian or apoison control hotline, Dr. Smith said.

“Inducing vomiting is not always the best thing to do” because a causticsubstance can cause further damage when it is vomited back up through thethroat and mouth, she said.

Peroxide can cause inflammation and ulceration of the gastrointestinal tract.Never use it to induce vomiting in a cat, Dr. Smith said. It may cause severebleeding and inflammation in the stomach and esophagus.

If ingested by pets, isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) can cause vomiting,disorientation and, in severe cases, collapse, respiratory depression andseizures. If used in high concentrations on open wounds, it can damage skinand delay healing.

Bleach can have severe effects on dog and cats, depending on the amount thepet has been exposed to. Regular strength household bleach can irritate skinand eyes. Ingestion of highly concentrated bleach can burn the esophagus,damage the stomach lining and cause oral ulcers. Symptoms include severedepression, pawing at the mouth, hypersalivation, vomiting, lethargy and lossof appetite.

Ammonia, used in some disinfecting wipes or sprays, can cause corrosive injuryto any tissue it contacts. In aerosol form, it can make eyes swell, tear andburn. In higher concentrations, it can irritate the throat and lungs.

Phenols, which are found in many disinfectant sprays and other cleaningproducts, can be extremely corrosive to eyes and are rapidly absorbed throughthe skin.

Dr. Smith said she has not seen a spike in cases caused by household cleaningproducts. The most common causes of poisoning are chocolate, prescription andover-the-counter medications for humans, and xylitol, an artificial sweetenerused in sugar-free gum and some baked goods and peanut butter. Always read thecontent labels of “people food” given to pets.

Cats are far less likely than dogs to ingest toxic and caustic substances, Dr.Smith said.

Because time is of the essence, it might be best to call the poison hotlinefirst, she said, especially if you know what the pet has ingested. If the petis sick and you don’t know why, lab work at a veterinary clinic is needed.

The number for the Pet Poison Helpline is 855-764-7661. The cost is $59. Thewebsite has an extensive list of the many substancesthat can poison pets, including a wide array of plants and flowers.

Source: Linda Wilson Fuoco:[email protected]

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