• Dr. Frank Akawi

Keeping Pets Safe During Covid-19

Updated: May 18

Tips to clean home and avoid toxic chemical material to your pets

Covid-19 has created fear and some widespread panic in regards to the virus being zoonotic. The main fear is that animals can carry the virus and that includes pets. There has been some recent publicity around zoo lions and tigers carrying the virus but the number has been extremely low in comparison to "human to human" spread.


The important thing to remember is, to take the same precautions for your pets that you would do for yourself. That means social distancing for animals and people too.

If you are staying at a distance from people, keep your dog at a distance from other dogs as well, and if you or a family member are showing signs of the virus, avoid petting, snuggling etc.


Covid-19 has been found to live on surfaces for up to 4 hours, and yes that includes your pets! Therefore, simple steps like keeping a safe distance, wiping down your pets feet, collar, lead etc., could make a significant difference.


What is safe to clean pets:

  • Hydrogen Peroxide 3-5% breaks down the enzymes that make up the virus.

  • Tea tree can be used on dogs, however is toxic to cats so use cautiously if you have both dogs and cats that share the same spaces. Be careful when using any "Essential Oil' as animals have different metabolisms and can be seriously affected and poisoned by inhalation or ingestion. Do your research before using any essential oils or chemical scents, as even in a diffuser it can cause toxification. You see, tea tree oil is also toxic In it’s 100% pure form, as it is often sold in health food stores, it can be very dangerous if absorbed undiluted through the skin or ingested by you or your dog. Used diluted, it’s safest if it’s only .1% to 1% of the solution. Any more could lead to toxic exposure, especially over time.

  • Bicarbonate of Soda can be used as a dry shampoo, but be careful around eyes and sensitive areas.

  • White Vinegar is a natural cleaning product and can be used to wipe paws after a walk.

  • The safest product to use and clean pets paws and skin is chlorhexidine wipes made from 2% solution found in pets shops or your veterinarians. 


** Be careful when disinfecting surfaces as, for example using bleach around pets, birds, exotics and reptiles can cause toxicity to your pets and can damage the skin and fur, especially when it gets between the toes. In addition, contact with the skin can lead to ingestion since pets will lick it during the grooming process. This can cause GI irritation and vomiting and diarrhoea depending on the dose. Concentrated or ultra-bleach can be chemically caustic or corrosive to tissue causing burn. If you use bleach at home avoid mixing with other chemicals and keep pets away from it.  Example if using bleach with other ammonia products like glass cleaner or cleaning chemicals or any acidic cleaner like vinegar can release chlorine and Chlor-amines gasses which are toxic to both pets and humans.


If bleach or any astringent gets in the pet's eyes, it is an emergency. Washing the eyes immediately with warm water or eye wash solution ie (saline solution) can slow down the damage and the burning to the cornea. In some cases they may need to be checked by a veterinarian immediately. 


Hand sanitisers kill germs because of the high alcohol content (normally about 70% Ethanol).

If your pet is exposed to too much of it, they can become intoxicated. They may look drunk, vomit and have a sudden drop in blood sugar that can affect mental alertness. If a large amount is ingested, the signs can happen within 30 minutes. Therefore, time is of the essence to see a veterinarian immediately. 

Tips to keep your pet safe while cleaning:

1. Keep your pet out of the room while cleaning, especially if you are using a mop bucket, because pets will drink out of these buckets. 

2. Discard paper towels or sanitising wipes used in a covered trashcan after use because pets will eat these objects and can get poisoned and toxicity. 

3. When cleaning the bathroom keep the door closed and open the window and turn on an exhaust fan. It is important because all toilet bowel cleaners, drain cleaners and tub, tile and bathroom cleaners are extremely strong and can be corrosive if they get on the skin or ingested. An easier way is to crate your pet while cleaning the bathroom.


Interview with Dr. Akawi Here: