Coronavirus: Should We Be Sanitizing the Dog?

We’ve learned that coronavirus can live on surfaces such as plastic and steel for up to three days, which has many of us grabbing disinfectants and attacking the various surfaces of our homes. As states go on lock down or pass bills that ban social gatherings and force people to stay home, many of us are feeling increased amounts of anxiety. Knowing that someone can be contagious before showing any symptoms of COVID-19 coupled with the fact that it can survive on some surfaces for a significant amount of time has us feeling like it’s not safe to touch anything unless we’ve disinfected it first. But what about our dogs? They’re technically a surface too, right? And one that everyone in the household is touching pretty frequently. I don’t know about you, but I certainly can’t keep my hands off my dogs. So the question is: do we have to worry about catching coronavirus through contact with our dogs’ fur and is there any way we can prevent that?

Please, Do Not Try to Sanitize or Disinfect Your Dogs

COVID-19 has us sanitizing everything, from our kitchen tables to our groceries. No surface is safe from Lysol and Clorox. But there is one surface we shouldn’t sanitize, and that’s our pet’s fur. The reason I’m writing this article is clearly because I’ve thought about how all five members of my household touch the dogs all the time, and it made me wonder if there was any way I could safely clean them off. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any safe option (aside from bathing the dog) that would work to kill or remove germs from the fur. Dry shampoos do not get rinsed away like normal soap and they don’t have any ingredients in them that kill bacteria or viruses, so they won’t work. I hope no one is considering this, but it’s dangerous to use substances like alcohol or bleach on our dogs’ fur. If a substance like bleach comes in contact with a dog’s skin, it can cause chemical burns. Steer clear of using any household cleaners on your dog. I’m sure that’s a no-brainer, but with all the panic, I figured I should still mention it.

Aside from household cleaners, there are a couple other less alarming substances people may consider using on their dogs’ fur: namely, chlorhexidine gluconate and vinegar.

Chlohexidine gluconate is commonly used by vets to treat atopic dermatitis, a condition that causes itchy, inflamed skin. It works as an antiseptic that reduces microorganisms and other bacteria on the skin. You can even find it on Amazon in the form of shampoos and sprays. Since it is commonly used to treat canine skin problems, we can consider it safe to use on our dogs. Unfortunately, it will not kill coronaviruses, according to Kenneth McIntosh, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

As for vinegar, including apple cider vinegar, I can’t find any reliable sources that describe how it would interact with a dog’s fur. Certainly, it is less abrasive than our typical household cleaners, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe. Furthermore, it is not on the EPA’s list of disinfectants that can be used against coronavirus, and there is no evidence that any type of vinegar can kill the virus. Therefore, I would caution against using any type of vinegar on your dog’s fur.

Can Coronavirus Live On Dog Fur?

I talked about whether or not we could catch coronavirus from dogs via contact (and in general) in my first article about coronavirus, but I’ll reiterate the important points here. According to the CDC, the main way the coronavirus spreads is through respiratory droplets. When someone coughs or sneezes, they expel these droplets. If you are too close (within six feet), then the droplets could land in your mouth or nose or you could inhale them and get infected. Coronavirus can also be spread by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your mouth or nose, but this is not believed to be the main way the virus spreads. As I explained before, it is certainly possible for your dog to be one of the surfaces the virus could land on. At the moment, there are no studies to explain if or how long SARS-CoV-2 can live on a dog’s fur. However, in an interview with The Washington Post, American Veterinary Medical Association’s chief veterinary officer, Gail Golab, stated that “Porous materials, such as pet fur, tend to absorb and trap pathogens, making it harder to contract them through touch.” Based on this statement, it seems that the risk of contracting COVID-19 by touching our dogs is relatively low.

Wash Your Hands

Though the likelihood of contracting COVID-19 through contact with our pets is low, it isn’t completely impossible. Therefore, it’s important to do as the CDC recommends and wash your hands before and after you interact with your dogs.

For more information about how coronavirus affects dogs, read my article, Can Your Dog Get Coronavirus? Can your dog spread COVID-19 to You? For tips on how to care for your dog if you do get sick, check out Preparing For Coronavirus as a Dog Owner.

Sources

Brulliard, Karin. “How to pet dogs during the coronavirus pandemic.The Washington Post, 18 Mar. 2020.

Chlorhexidine Gluconate.Science Direct.

How Coronavirus Spreads.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kawalilak, LT et al. “Management of a facial partial thickness chemical burn in a dog caused by bleach.Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, 27 Mar. 2017.

List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2.United States Environmental Protection Agency, accessed 27 Mar. 2020.

McIntosh, Kenneth. “Coronaviruses.UpToDate, updated 18 Feb 2020.

New coronavirus stable for hours on surfaces.National Institutes of Health, 17 Mar. 2020.

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