My Dog Ate a Dryer Sheet! What to Do?

By Kevin Myers | 2020 Update

I think every dog lover has experienced dumping a warm pile of clothes fresh from the dryer on the bed only to have their dog plop right in the middle of it.

You know the battle is already lost, and with a smile on your face, you put the laundry away with your dog snuggled in the warm center of the pile. As you finish, you notice only one dryer sheet left when there should be two. And you start to panic.

Dogs are always eating things that aren’t good. They’ll gulp down sticks of butter and eat discarded dental floss like it was spaghetti. And we never seem to catch them in the act; it’s always after the fact.

Eating a dryer sheet is not a trivial matter, and it can be very harmful to your dog. So, today, we’ll be sharing what to do in such a situation. Things you should know about your dog eating dryer sheets are:

  • Why dryer sheets are bad for dogs
  • Signs of dryer-sheet poisoning in dogs
  • Steps to take when your dog eats a dryer sheet

The FDA has a list of chemicals and items that could prove hazardous for pets. In an average household, you’re likely to find many of those. Since we’ll be focusing on dryer sheets today, let’s begin with:

What Makes the Dryer Sheets so Dangerous

Dryer sheets consist of synthetic materials that cannot be digested by pets. The sheets also contain Cationic surfactants, which are hazardous chemicals.

Your dryer sheets are probably full of cetrimonium bromide and benzalkonium chloride! Slight exposure of the skin, stomach lining, or mucus membranes to them can irritate. When present in larger amounts, these chemicals will burn or produce ulcers. Additionally, you could be looking at these in worst-case scenarios:

  1. Lung damage
  2. Acute kidney disease
  3. CNS depression
  4. Muscle weakness
  5. Seizure
  6. Fluid in the lungs
  7. Coma

Besides the cationic surfactant toxicity, there are other factors too. One of them is that these sheets can physically block a dog’s GI tract! An obstruction that could cause serious illness- may require surgical intervention to remove the blockage—a risky procedure.

Providing Care to an Afflicted Pooch

If you suspect your dog haseaten a dryer sheet, one of the things you should NOT DO is try to get your dog to vomit.

Inducing vomiting may cause additional damage by exposing your dog’s stomach, throat, esophagus, and trachea to the corrosive chemicals again.

You should immediately call your veterinarian and follow their advice.They’d be better able to show you how to tackle the situation. Under controlled conditions, that’s how a vet induces vomiting:

How to induce vomiting in your dog | Dr Justine Lee

How Will I Know My Dog’s Symptoms Indicate Dry Softener Sheet Poisoning?

Like all conditions, how your fur baby will react to eating dryer sheets will depend on how much exposure they’ve had and for how long. Even so, here are some things to look out for:

Skin Exposure

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Ulcers
  • Swelling
  • Burns

Oral Exposure

  • GI discomfort
  • Burns
  • Depression
  • Ulcers
  • Lethargy
  • Loud breathing
  • Cough
  • Wheezing
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Inflammation
  • Swollen tongue

Ocular Exposure

  • Eyes swollen enough to close up
  • Excessive tearing
  • Redness/Inflammation

Waiting for a Fabric Softener Poisoning Diagnosis for your Dog

We know it can be difficult to formulate proper thoughts or act calmly when a fur baby is in danger. However, having the presence of mind to grab the dryer sheets’ packaging will help. You can also take a picture of the product and bring it to the vet. Simply put, the more informed a vet is about the product, the better they’d be able to help your dog.

Similar to the severity of the symptoms, the diagnosis will also depend on the poisoning case. Dermal exposures, for example, can often turn into oral and instances of ingestion. After all, when a part of your dog’s body undergoes a burning sensation, they are likely to lick it better. Consequently, they will also be taking in the harmful chemicals present on their fur! Therefore, they’d present symptoms for all those kinds of exposures. Observe, remember, and let the vet know.

On arrival, a clinic will have two top priorities. Firstly, they would want to stabilize your pooch. And secondly, they will continue to the diagnostic process. However, which order these steps occur is contingent upon your pet’s condition.

If necessary, the vet would draw some blood to check the levels of white blood cells. Should a dog’s immune system be fighting off toxicity, those numbers would be up. Alternatively, they may do a physical examination of the mucus membranes. Exposure to dry sheets may result in damage to them. Thus, an assessment would be in order. Finally, to determine if there’s a blockage, vet diagnosis can also include endoscopy or abdominal ultrasound.

Treating a Dog with Dryer Sheet Poisoning

Unfortunately, there isn’t an antidote for this condition. Therefore, veterinarians will provide supportive care to your dog. That will most likely mean reducing the patient’s pain, vomiting, and seizure with intravenous fluids.

How to Give Fluids Under Your Pet's Skin

If they present severe ulceration, then the vet would also administer meds, such as anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, and gastroprotectants. Depending on whether your pet has ocular and dermal exposure, they may wash their skin and flush their eyes.

Barring a mild situation — such as light dermal exposure — the vet would need to hospitalize their patient. For instance, if the dog’s esophagus or stomach is raw from swallowing dryer sheets, vets will insert a tube through the organ’s wall. In other cases, respiration therapy could also be necessary.

Helping a Dog Recover from Dryer Sheet Poisoning

Helping Speed up Recovery

A lengthy recovery period may be in store for your pet after the poisoning episode. This is especially true if the mucus membrane has extensive ulceration or eye damage requires an ointment application. You will likely need to tack your dog back to the vet for frequent follow up appointments. That will ensure their recovery remains on the right track. It would help if you stayed in contact with the clinic throughout the period and ask any questions you have about the recovery

Your dog will be fragile for some time after this, and will likely need a caregiver. Other than that, vigilance and increased safety measures will be necessary. The last part is crucial for all pet owners because we use many potentially toxic chemicals as household products.

Preventing Similar Mishaps

Dryer sheets can contain ingredients even more harmful than those present in kitchen cleaning chemicals. The problem, though, are the Consumer Protection Safety Commission guidelines. They have a lax stance when it comes to regulating the labeling of such products.

In other words, the burden falls on you, i.e., the dog parent. Start by reading the packaging. Sure, you might not recognize most of the toxic substances on the list. However, garner any information you can from the label. Then, look for the message that tells consumers that a product is non-toxic. If you can’t find one, then assume it is harmful to your dog.

Recovery Requirements

Follow the guidelines that your vet sends home with you. Most of them will consider a diet of potatoes or rice and boiled chicken to be safe for recovering pups. That’s because these foods will push things along in the dog’s gut.

Prevent your pet from moving around too much.If you can, restrict your dog’sactivities so their body can put the energy from the food towards healing them.

Observe your dog and determine if they are getting better.


FAQs

How do dogs come into contact with dryer sheets?

Usually, that happens when pets try to play with the sheets. After a wash, these products become light and float in the air easily. Of course, that makes them doubly attractive to playful pups! Thus, the proper disposal of used sheets is essential in keeping your dog safe and hiding the unused ones.

Some dog parents also rub their dog’s fur with dryer sheets to get rid of static energy. They erroneously believe that they aren’t harming their doggo. But the pet will lick its skin and, thus, get those nasty chemicals inside their bodies!

Conclusion

Did you know dryer sheets could be so dangerous? If you didn’t, you do so now. Keep your canine companions safe!

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