My dog ate silica gel – Should I be worried?

When you purchase items like shoes, medicine, or electronics, you may notice little silica gel pods in the packaging, inviting your dog to make a snack out of them.

Consuming the amount of silica typically found in a small (1-2-inch packet) probably won’t do your canine much harm besides possibly causing minor digestive upset.  If you have a small dog or your pup has consumed a large amount of the stuff, consult your veterinarian.

You may be wondering what happens when your dog swallows a packet of silica gel or consumes the iron or charcoal granules commonly found in many pre-packaged items. 

Help!  My Dog Ate Silica Gel

Silica gel most frequently appears in tiny packets — about 1″x1″ or slightly larger.  Silica is a desiccant — it absorbs moisture to keep items from deteriorating.  You’ll usually find the little crystal packages nestled in shoeboxes, bags, or included with electronics.  

Canines will eat just about anything left lying around.  If you leave a stray silica packet within the puppy’s reach, he may chew on it and make a snack out of the little pellets.  Silica is something that can have some toxicity to dogs but doesn’t usually cause serious health problems. 

Fortunately, if your dog is affected, the gel shouldn’t cause any long-term harm.  If your beloved pet samples some silica, your best course of action is to keep an eye on her.  If you notice any symptoms, you can contact your vet to find out what your next steps, if any, should be.

Ingesting the small amount contained within a shoebox or clothing pocket may not cause any problems at all.  Your dog may have some digestive issues like stomach upset and possibly even vomiting and diarrhea.  If you’re concerned about the symptoms, it’s not a bad idea to contact your veterinarian just to get a professional’s opinion on what to do.  If you can’t reach your vet, you can call the Pet Poison Helpline.

If, however, your dog consumes a large amount of silica, there may be more cause for concern.  While your dog may not require any treatment, it’s never a bad idea to consult someone with some expertise in this area.  And making the call can give you peace of mind.

What About If My Dog Ate Silica Gel Packet?

You may be wondering if the packet itself can lead to complications if your dog swallows it whole.  There are warnings plastered all over the paper that read “Do Not Eat.”  But invariably, our pets are likely to miss the memo.  If your dog ingests an entire packet of silica gel, there is a possibility that it could become lodged in his digestive tract, causing a blockage.  Swallowing a packet whole is not a common occurrence. Your dog will probably chew on it first, breaking it apart before it can be swallowed whole.

Keep in mind that your dog is more likely to eat a gel packet that came with a food item.  The packet will probably have the scent of the food on it, so your dog will be especially drawn to it.

Larger packets can be more problematic because they are larger and contain more silica, making them more likely to get hung up in your dog’s intestinal tract.  If your dog has bitten off more silica than you think it can chew, let your veterinarian know what happened to see if treatment might be in order.

My Dog Ate Silica Beads.  Should I Be Concerned?

Silica gel beads probably won’t cause serious problems other than minor digestive upset.  For instance, your dog might be slightly sluggish or not have much of an appetite after munching on the beads.  Diarrhea and vomiting are a possibility, too.  If your dog has symptoms, contact your veterinarian to see if further treatment is advised.

If your dog ate desiccant like silica beads, the beads themselves aren’t as much of a problem.  What the beads were packaged with could be cause for concern, though.  Those little packets of beads are often found in bottles of medication.  The silica could absorb some of the medication.  So if your pup has gotten into silica beads from a pharmaceutical product, contact your veterinarian just to be on the safe side.

My Dog Ate Charcoal.  Will It Make Him Sick?

Another thing dogs may get into from time to time is activated charcoal or carbon.  The stuff is sometimes contained in small plastic cylinders included in packs of dog treats, chews, or your favorite beef jerky.  The charcoal will not be toxic to your pup.  Activated charcoal is sometimes used to induce vomiting in dogs to empty their stomachs when they’ve eaten something toxic.  However, the small amount of charcoal contained in one cylinder isn’t enough to do that.  

The danger lies with the cylinder.  If your dog swallows it, it can block the intestines, especially in smaller dogs whose digestive channels are narrower and therefore more prone to obstructions.  Also, chewing on the cylinder can lead to damage inside your dog’s mouth.  Call your vet if you have concerns about your pet’s digestive or oral health.

What If My Dog Ate Some Other Kind of Oxygen-Absorbing Substance? 

Some dried or pre-prepared foods come with little packets to keep them from going rancid (a process called oxidization).  These packets absorb oxygen to prevent or slow down the oxidization process.  These small pods contain carbon, sodium chloride, and iron powder.  Oxygen-absorbers that don’t have elemental iron probably won’t harm your dog.  Non-elemental iron will most likely turn to rust by the time your dog consumes it.

However, elemental iron is highly toxic to dogs.  If the packet in question contains elemental iron, it will probably be in the form of brown or rust-colored pellets.  They are magnetic, which is how you can tell them apart from dyed silica and other types of oxygen absorbers.  Because of its corrosive properties, this kind of iron can do considerable harm to the digestive tract.  After ingesting it, your dog will probably vomit, and the contents may contain blood.  What’s so alarming about iron poisoning is that symptoms can show up anywhere from one to five days after consumption, so you may not know right away that anything is wrong.

Iron poisoning can lead to serious health problems, such as hepatoxicity (liver damage) and shock.  Some canines also develop metabolic acidosis, which makes the body more acidic.  The risk of poisoning is highest in dogs weighing less than 15 pounds.  Larger dogs are much less susceptible to iron poisoning unless they’ve consumed large amounts of the metal.

FAQs

Is silica cat litter toxic to dogs?

Silica cat litter shouldn’t pose any hazards if consumed by dogs (or cats, for that matter).  It may not have any impact at all.  Worst-case scenario: your pet may have an upset stomach for a bit, but the litter should quickly pass through their system.

What about the clumping kind of silica cat litter?

Silica cat litter with clumping capabilities can be more problematic; as the little mounds form when wet.  Therefore, these will develop inside your pup’s intestinal tract.  A few crystals eaten may lead to constipation, but a large helping of litter can cause intestinal blockages.

If my dog ate something harmful, should I induce vomiting at home?

Trying on your own to get your pup to vomit is not recommended.  If your dog swallowed a large object, it could become lodged in the esophagus as it comes up.  There’s also the risk of aspiration or using the wrong substance to induce vomiting.  DIY methods are usually much more of an ordeal for your dog than what’s done by a professional.  

Are poinsettias bad for dogs?

Many people hold to the idea that poinsettias are toxic to cats, but what about dogs?  The plants won’t do any long-term harm to either animal.  They can cause minor digestive problems, but the symptoms usually go away on their own.

Is fertilizer toxic to dogs?

It can be, especially if it contains iron.  The risk is higher if the iron concentration exceeds 5%.  Insecticides or pesticides can also be toxic.  If your dog noshes on some fertilizer, call your veterinarian and list the ingredients your dog ingested.

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