My dog ate Vaseline (petroleum jelly) – Should I be Worried?

The last thing you expected was for your pup to help himself to that open Vaseline jar.  But he did.  Now what?

Should you be worried if your canine companion ingests Vaseline? It depends on how much he consumed. Taking a lick probably won’t hurt, but eating a sizeable portion can cause digestive problems. When in doubt, consult your veterinarian.

You may also be wondering why your dog ate petroleum jelly in the first place and whether it’s OK to put it on your dog’s skin and paws.  

My Dog Ate Vaseline…Now What

If your dog ate petroleum jelly, what should your next steps be?  Vaseline is generally not poisonous to dogs.  It may cause some stomach upset that could lead to vomiting and diarrhea.  Or it may not affect your dog at all.  Dogs can’t digest petroleum jelly, so it just passes right through their system.  

A small amount of Vaseline shouldn’t present any problems.  However, if your dog consumed a lot of it, or you’re not sure how much he ate, consult a veterinarian or call the Pet Poison Helpline.  Ingesting a considerable quantity of Vaseline could cause more severe vomiting and diarrhea, and eventually, dehydration. Dehydration almost always warrants prompt veterinary attention.  

If your furry friend has sampled Vaseline, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on him for a day or two to see how it affects him.  If he has diarrhea or vomiting, and his symptoms persist for more than 24 hours, veterinary intervention is usually in order.

Another cause for concern is if your dog ate Vaseline that had something added to it, like cocoa butter.  Cocoa butter is toxic to dogs because cocoa contains theobromine, which dogs cannot metabolize.  Consuming a small quantity may cause digestive problems but probably won’t do any long-term damage.   Dogs that eat large amounts may experience seizures and even death.  If your dog ingests Vaseline with cocoa butter in it, consult your veterinarian and monitor your dog for signs of trouble.

Other colorings and flavorings added to Vaseline can cause health issues for dogs, too.  If your dog manages to eat the container the Vaseline came in, say the plastic cylinder for lip balm, it could become lodged somewhere in your dog’s digestive system.  If this happens, contact your vet.

Is Shea Butter Toxic to Dogs?

She butter is another frequently-used moisturizer, and you may be wondering if it’s harmful to your dog.  Although shea butter is not for canine consumption, it won’t prove toxic to your pet.  Some fur conditioners meant for dogs have shea butter in them.  Your dog may lick some from its fur before you rinse it out, but it’s nothing to worry over. 

If your dog consumes shea butter from a “people product,” it shouldn’t be dangerous unless it contains other ingredients that are toxic to animals.  

Can I Put Vaseline on My Dog?

While Vaseline probably won’t cause your dog any long-term harm and may not affect him at all, it’s best to avoid using it altogether.  After all, applying it to your pup’s skin is an invitation for him to eat it, so it probably won’t be able to do its job as a moisturizer.  Instead, use creams designed just for canines.  If your pet has a skin condition and you’re not sure how to treat it, ask your vet for recommendations.

Some pet parents apply petroleum jelly to their dogs’ dry, cracked paws, especially during cold weather.  If your pup’s paws need some TLC, ask your veterinarian what the best product is to use.  Dry, cracked paws may sometimes indicate another underlying health condition.

Why Does My Dog Want to Eat Vaseline Anyway?

Dogs like to eat whatever they can find.  Especially when they’re in the puppy and “teenager” stage, they explore their environment by chewing.  The scent is why dogs choose to chew on something.  If they like the way it smells, they want to give it a taste.  Sometimes, too, pups think that whatever they’re curious about must be a toy or a treat, which often leads them to eat things they’re not supposed to.

Cocoa butter, other sweet flavors, and colors are sometimes added to Vaseline, especially in lip balm.  Dogs may be drawn to these scents and colors, too.  

And of course, if the Vaseline is on you and your dog licks you, he would probably do that anyway because that’s how he shows love.

How Can I Discourage My Dog from Chewing on Things?

One way dogs end up accidentally ingesting things is by chewing on them.  You can take some steps to discourage this behavior or channel your pup’s energy in a more constructive way.  Like human infants and toddlers, puppies go through a teething stage, and chewing soothes their gums.  Adult dogs may continue this behavior because they’re bored, fearful, have separation anxiety, or want attention.

To prevent your dog’s destructive gnawing, the Humane Society of the United States recommends that you:

  • Offer a teething dog a frozen washcloth to chew.  Supervise your dog to ensure it doesn’t eat the washcloth.
  • Don’t offer your pooch household items for chewing.  Instead, offer them toys designed for canines.
  • When you catch your dog gnawing on something it shouldn’t have, give it something it can chew on.
  • Praise your dog when you catch him chewing on a toy instead of the furniture.
  • Don’t punish your dog after the fact. Dogs can’t make the connection between the chewed item you found and the consequences you delivered later on. 
  • When you catch your pet chewing on something that’s supposed to be off-limits, don’t run after him; he’ll think it’s a game.

Puppy-Proofing Your Home to Avoid Accidental Ingestions

Certainly, our pets can get into anything in any part of our homes.  But they’re especially likely to find things to eat in the kitchen.  The bathroom medicine cabinet (or anywhere we keep medication) can be a hotspot, too.  Here are some tips for maintaining these areas as pet-proof as possible.

  • Place child-proof latches on cupboards.
  • Put a locked lid on the trash can and consider placing it in a latched cabinet.
  • Keep wrapped foods out of reach even if the food is pet-safe; the packaging probably isn’t.
  • Keep the toilet lid closed so the puppy doesn’t drink harmful cleaners or chemicals that may be in the water.
  • Keep medication, cleaning products, and other items in locked cabinets or higher cupboards.

FAQs

Can I use other “human” products on my dogs, like lotion and shampoo?

It’s better not to apply products on your canine that are intended for humans.  Lotions and shampoos, for instance, are designed for human skin and hair.  Dogs’ skin has a different pH than ours and requires products formulated specifically for canines.

What should I do if my dog ingests other cosmetic products, like mascara, aloe gel, etc.?

Call your veterinarian to report what happened and list the ingredients printed on the label.  Your vet will need to consider each product’s risks in light of what it contains and how much the dog ate.

Can I give my dog Vaseline for constipation or help him pass a foreign object?

Do not use Vaseline to managing canine constipation or to help him pass something he swallowed.  Dogs are usually given paraffin for this.  Contact your veterinarian if you’re concerned about your pet’s bowel movements or related issues because there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for treating them.

Will my dog be OK if she eats grease?

If your dog samples grease from the grill or leftovers from the frying pan, there’s probably no cause for alarm.  She may have some vomiting and diarrhea, and if this lasts for more than 24 hours, call a vet.  If she ate an exceptionally large quantity, it could lead to pancreatitis or kidney failure, but that’s an extreme case scenario.

What kinds of fat are not good for dogs? 

Try to minimize your pup’s consumption of animal fats — meat drippings, scraps, and skins.  Also, keep other fats like butter, margarine, avocado oil, shortening, and high-fat dairy foods out of her diet.

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