Charlotte Piquet, a vet in Sciez in the Haute-Savoie (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes) raised the alarm after seeing a rise in cases such as “cats in an alcohol coma after having been washed in hand sanitiser”, and “intoxications and skin burns due to using disinfectant on cats and dogs”.
Dr Piquet said: “People are asking us, ‘How do I disinfect my dog after taking it for a walk? What should I put on his tongue because he licked the ground? What should I put on his paws, what can I clean him completely with?’
“Most of the time, people think about bleach or alcohol hand sanitiser gel. [But] the first danger is burning, either due to contact - or afterwards, when the animal licks its coat. And then there are the rare cases of alcohol coma, with a completely intoxicated animal after it has ingested alcohol [from the gel].”
Speaking to local news source France Bleu Pays de Savoie, Dr Piquet warned: “Do not wash your pets in corrosive products.”
She said: "I never thought people would ask the question, 'Can I bleach my cat or dog?'".
On their Facebook Page, the vet's veterinary practice Vet Alp'Léman, said: “It is not necessary to wash your dog after a walk”. Or, if the pet does need a bath, you can simply use water and normal pet shampoo.
Both health and safety agency Anses (Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l'alimentation, de l'environnement et du travail) and the World Organisation for Animal Health say that the virus is very unlikely to be spread by animals.
However, scientific research body l’Academie des Sciences recommends that owners regularly wash their hands when they are looking after their pets, and that they do not let their pet “lick your face”.
The warnings come just days after national veterinary group l’Ordre National des Vétérinaires (ONV) published a list detailing whether or not pet owners should take their pet to the vet during this time of pandemic and confinement.
Animal welfare charity la SPA has also published advice for pet owners on how to keep their animals safe during this time.
Sign up to our free weekly e-newsletter
Subscribe to access all our online articles and receive our printed monthly newspaper The Connexion at your home. News analysis, features and practical help for English-speakers in France