Does Using Hand Sanitizer Pose a Danger to Pets?

Ethylene glycol, used in antifreeze, is indeed extremely poisonous to animals. But does hand sanitizer actually contain this chemical?

  • Published 17 March 2020
Image via Getty Images, stock

Claim

Hand sanitizer is a threat to pets because it contains an ingredient also found in antifreeze.

Rating

Origin

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As concern over the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus disease increased globally, so too did the demand for hand sanitizer. Along with that came unsupported claims about the dangers hand sanitizer presents to pets.

Since mid-March, the claim that hand sanitizer “has the same ingredients as antifreeze” — and therefore could theoretically kill your pet if they lick a recently sanitized hand — has gone viral.

The following post had garnered over 300,000 shares at the time of this reporting:

hand sanitizer same as antifreeze pets dogs

But this assertion is not true.

The chemical of concern in antifreeze is ethylene glycol. Hand sanitizers, which are either ethanol- or isopropanol-based, do not contain ethylene glycol. It is true that ethylene glycol is very dangerous to pets (and humans) if ingested, even in small quantities, but such a fact is irrelevant to the issue at hand.

Although ethanol poisoning (i.e what happens when a human drinks a medically dangerous amount of alcohol) is possible if a pet were to consume large quantities of hand sanitizer, an animal merely licking a recently sanitized hand is not cause for concern. For that reason, the claim is “False.”

  • Published 17 March 2020
Sources

U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry.   “Public Health Statement for Ethylene Glycol.”
    November 2010.

Bookstaver, P. Brandon, et al.   “Ingestion of Hand Sanitizer by a Hospitalized Patient With a History of Alcohol Abuse.”
    American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy.   1 December 2008.

VCA Hospitals.   “Ethylene Glycol Poisoning in Dogs.”
    Accessed 17 March 2019.

Pet MD.   “Ethanol Poisoning in Dogs.”
    Accessed 17 March 2019.

O’Malley, Gerald F., and Rika O’Malley.   “Alcohol.”
    Merck Manual Consumer Version.   August 2017.