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Alcohol-based rubs can harm dogs and cats (Photo: Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times)
Alcohol-based rubs can harm dogs and cats (Photo: Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times)

Does your pet need a paw sanitizer?

Capitalizing on concerns around pet-care during the pandemic, a Pune-based company has come up with a sanitizer for cats and dogs. But are alcohol-free sanitizers effective?

Ever since the lockdown began, the online discussion forum of Wiggles.in, a Pune-based pet-care company for cats and dogs, has been flooded with inquiries on how to manage pets during the pandemic.

“A lot of people were asking how they could protect their pets, how to take them for walks without having to wash them after," says Anushka Iyer, founder and chief executive officer of Wiggles.in. Washing every day is tedious, while regular sanitizers can be poisonous for pets due to their high alcohol content. “That’s when it hit us–an alcohol-free pet sanitizer."

It took three months to turn the concept into a solution. Today, the Wiggles’ Pet Sanitizer pitches itself as first-of-its kind in India. It substitutes alcohol for benzalkonium chloride, a standard ingredient of cleansing hand-rubs. “We’ve also added herbal ingredients like lemongrass, lavender and basil," she says. “It has an aromatherapy effect on the pets; helps calm them down."

Studies on covid19 spread to and via pets are limited. The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States, says a study has found dogs can get infected but might not spread the virus to other dogs as easily, although cats and ferrets are more at risk. The Wiggles sanitizer claims to kill “99.9% germs instantly" but makes no explicit claims about its efficacy to counter covid19.

“It isn’t just about covid19," says Iyer. “There are many infections a pet can carry. It can be a basic viral infection also can be transferred from one dog to another." The sanitizer, meant to be sprayed on the pets’ coat and paws, is to prevent the spread of such infections. “People have become more aware of hygiene over the past few months. This includes pet parents, who are concerned about pets getting infected as well. You can say the timing worked out."

There are pet body wipes in the market, like the Pet Head Paw and Body Dog Wipes from petcare company Heads Up For Tails, but it's not clear whether these have any anti-microbial properties or are simple cleansing wipes.

The CDC has its doubts on the efficacy of non-alcohol sanitizers, though. “Available evidence indicates benzalkonium chloride has less reliable activity against certain bacteria and viruses than either of the alcohols [used in hand-sanitizers]," it says on its website. But the ongoing pandemic has resulted in a surge of interest in hygiene and nutritional products of pets in the recent months. Amidst the downward trend in the world economy, the Pet Care market worldwide is estimated to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.5%, according to a report on researchandmarkets.com.

When it comes to caring for your pets, the rules for humans are applicable for pets as well, says Dr Rahul Meshram, a veterinarian and a member of Plant and Animals Welfare Society in Mumbai. “Keep pets at home when suitable, don’t take them to crowded areas; if you are taking them out, bathe the animals after. One can also dilute antiseptics like Dettol or Savlon to wipe down the paws after outdoor activity."

“Pet sanitizers isn’t exactly necessary," he adds. "But with new products are coming to the market, people would like to get some new stuff for their pets and they can use it. It’s not harmful if not alcohol based. But efficacy needs to be checked."

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