To help reduce the spread of coronavirus, government advice is to wash our hands and to clean surfaces regularly. It is important to take extra care, however, with pets in the household since commonly used disinfectants are irritant and can cause local tissue damage in cats and dog that lick treated surfaces.

The main disinfectants used are cationic surfactants (detergents) particularly benzalkonium chloride (BAC, alkyl dimethylbenzylammonium chloride) and didecyldimethylammonium chloride (DDAC). These compounds are commonly found in household disinfectants and patio cleaners and typically cause delayed onset pyrexia, hypersalivation and tongue ulceration. Most cases occur in cats, presumably because of their grooming habits, but dogs can be affected too. Pets typically present hours after exposure and therefore the use of the disinfectant may not be associated with pet’s illness. Treatment is supportive with analgesia, rehydration and syringe feeding if necessary. Recovery may take several days.