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Help! What if My Dog Licked Hand Sanitizer?

pump hand sanitizer with masks in background on counter

There is a meme going around right now that says that hand sanitizer has the same ingredients as antifreeze and that it’s lethal for your pets. This is FALSE.

It IS true that dogs can get sick from hand sanitizer and it can be fatal when ingested in large quantities, but it is NOT because hand sanitizer contains ethylene glycol, the ingredient in antifreeze.

The problem with hand sanitizer is the alchohol in the hand sanitizer, in the form of ethanol or isopropanol can give dogs alcohol poisoning in large enough quantities.

IMPORTANT! If your dog is showing signs of alcohol poisoning from ingesting hand sanitizer, please make sure you call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Line at 888-426-4435.

If possible, have the poison with you when you call.

A Few Licks Will Probably Be OK

dog licking human hand

First, I need to tell you that I am NOT a veterinarian. I’m a dog lover who does tons of research and brings that research together for you. If your dog is showing symptoms of poisoning, seek veterinary care.

Like many other substances, the severity of the situation your dog faces is largely dependent on how much hand sanitizer they ingest. In most cases, a few licks is unlikely to cause harm. It’s not something you want to encourage, but if it happens your dog is probably OK.

Here’s what Pet MD has to say about ethanol poisoning (the poisonous ingredient in hand sanitizer) in dogs:

Symptoms of ethanol poisoning vary depending on the amount ingested, and whether the dog’s stomach is full or empty. The main symptom is a depressed central nervous system, which may develop 15 to 30 minutes after ingestion on an empty stomach, and up to two hours later when ingested on a full stomach.

Pet MD

Symptoms of Hand Sanitizer Poisoning in Dogs

bulldog with tongue sticking out wrapped in blanket on couch

If your dog does end up ingesting more than a few licks of hand sanitizer, then it can become a serious health issue. It’s ALWAYS a good idea to keep products like hand sanitizer AWAY from dogs.

The symptoms of alchohol poisoning from hand sanitizer in dogs can include:

  • Urinating or pooping involuntarily
  • Depression
  • Excitement
  • Depressed body temperature
  • Slow reflexes
  • Farting
  • Slowed breathing
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Metabolic acidosis
  • Heart attack
  • Seizures

If left untreated hand sanitizer poisoning can cause death in dogs:

Other symptoms include urinating or defecating involuntarily. Higher doses of ethanol ingestion can lead to behavioral changes ranging from depression to excitement, decreased body temperature (hypothermia), slow reflexes, and flatulence if bread dough is the source of ethanol (see causes, below). Signs of advanced ethanol poisoning include depression, slowed breathing and heart rate, an increase in total body acid (metabolic acidosis), and heart attack. If left untreated, this can result in the dog’s death.

Pet MD

What to Do if Your Dog Has Ingested Hand Sanitizer

empty hand sanitizer pump bottle on counter

If your dog has ONLY licked hand sanitizer and gotten just a little bit in their system, then you can probably monitor them for the above symptoms to make sure they aren’t displaying any signs of alcohol poisoning.

However, if they have ingested MORE than a few licks or if they are showing ANY symptoms of alcohol poisoning you should seek veterinary attention immediately. Alcohol poisoning CAN be deadly to dogs if they have ingested enough. Do not take risks with your dog’s life.

Learn more about common household toxins for dogs in our post 6 Common (and Dangerous) Household Toxins for Dogs.

The Bottom Line on Hand Sanitizer Toxicity in Dogs

Fuzzy grey and black puppy with a green ball in nature

A few licks of hand sanitizer is not likely to cause a problem for most dogs, but if they ingest a lot of it then it can cause serious symptoms and sometimes be fatal. This is because hand sanitizer contains alcohol, which can lead to alcohol poisoning in dogs.

If your dog has ingested more than a few licks of hand sanitizer and/or is displaying symptoms of alcohol poisoning, contact veterinary help immediately.

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