In most dried food items, medications and even shoeboxes there is a little packet placed there by the manufacturer to maintain freshness. The purpose of these little packets is to either reduce moisture in the packaging or to absorb oxygen. Chewing up these little forgotten items is a ‘common pastime’ for canines. Fortunately, most are harmless and require minimal or no veterinary care. However, one is a potential problem.
Q: What is it? A: Silica is a hard porous gel that is made synthetically and utilized because of its high affinity for water. It is placed in products to control the humidity and prevent degradation. Silica gel packets are usually 1 x 2 inches and contain multiple small white, clear or opaque beads inside.
Q: Why is it labeled “do not eat”? A: Silica gel is not intended for consumption and therefor receives the label “do not eat”. The dust from the processing and creation of silica is irritating to the skin, respiratory tract and gastrointestinal tract. In people who are chronically exposed to/inhaling silica, such as a employee in a mine or factory, a progressive debilitating disease called silicosis can develop. Fortunately, silica dust is rarely encountered by our furry friends. Some silica products are mixed with a moisture indicator, these indicators may be toxic in large doses. If a dye is present, the silica gel will no longer be a clear to white but instead bright orange, blue, pink or green.
Q: Is it a threat to dogs? A: No true toxicity risk exists from exposure to silica gel packets. The beads do not enlarge in the stomach and the exterior packaging is usually soft and presents little risk of injury of obstruction.
Q: What is it? A: A specific type of prepared charcoal (similar to activated charcoal used in veterinary hospitals) is found in white plastic cylinders inside bags of prepared foodstuffs like dog treats, chews and jerky. If broken open the small black granules are visible. These granules are not magnetic (as compared to iron).
Q: Why is it labeled “do not eat”? A: The charcoal is not intended to be consumed and therefor labeled “do not eat”.
Q: Is it a threat to dogs? A: The cylinder can cause a foreign body obstruction in small dogs and can damage the oral cavity when chewed. However, no true toxicity risk exists from the charcoal or external canister. In case you were hoping to save some money by saving the charcoal in these canisters for use in the clinic, think again. You’d need to administer the contents of thousands of canisters before achieving any therapeutic benefit! Best to stick with good old activated charcoal.
Q: What is it? A: Elemental iron granules are placed in small packets called oxygen absorbers are added to bags of pre-prepared or dehydrated food stuffs to absorb excess oxygen. This prevents oxidization (rancidity) of the food and preserves freshness 1. Oxygen absorber packets are typically about 1×1” in size and are often found in packages of beef jerky, pepperoni, dried fruits, dog jerky treats, etc. If the oxygen absorber is broken open, dark brown to rust colored material is visible. This material is magnetic which allows for quick differentiation between packets containing iron and those containing silica gel or charcoal.
Q: Why is it labeled “do not eat”? A: Elemental iron can cause severe poisoning, even in the small amounts contained in one oxygen absorber packet.2 It is very irritating to the GI tract and has direct corrosive effects. After ingestion, vomiting (with or without blood) is one of the first signs of poisoning. In fact, vomiting is such a common finding that if a dog does not vomit, it’s probable that a toxic dose was not ingested. If the dose is large enough to cause poisoning, severe metabolic acidosis, shock and hepatic toxicity can develop 1 -5 days after the exposure. At Pet Poison Helpline, the most severe cases of iron poisoning from oxygen absorbers have occurred in small dogs (<15 pounds). Unless a large dog ingested several oxygen absorbers or ingested unusually large ones, poisoning is much less likely.
If your dog eats them, mild gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, such as an upset stomach, are possible. Though silica gel is chemically and biologically inert, the main risk is that packets can potentially cause an obstruction in the intestines if the whole packet is swallowed, especially in small dogs.
What Should I Do If My Dog Eats Silica Gel?
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.
Why Has My Dog Eaten Silica Gel?
Dogs have a heightened sense of smell and many of them are very interested in their surroundings. This means that dogs will often gobble up the most bizarre items that may not always edible, let alone safe for them. Silica gel is one of those items that may interest your dog and, believe it or not, it is a relatively common occurrence for dogs to eat silica gel.
Dogs may be interested in eating silica gel because it smells like the tasty thing it was packaged with- they’re often included in packs of treats to stop them from absorbing moisture and spoiling. Sometimes, there’s no known reason for a dog to eat silica gel- they just ate it! However, if your dog is regularly chewing or eating inedible items, we recommend having a check-up with your veterinarian to discuss the possibility of a medical or behavioral cause.
Some dogs may be more interested in eating inedible items than others – it will depend on their age and personality. Puppies that are teething or playful dogs are likely to seek out items to chew and may inadvertently ingest that item without realizing that it is harmful to them. It is advisable to research and understand what is or isn’t safe for our dogs and ensure that inedible and dangerous products are put out of reach from our beloved family pet.
Keep reading to find out everything that you need to know. We will look at whether silica gel is toxic to dogs, what to do if they ingest it, and how to prevent dogs from eating inedible items in the first place.
Little packets of silica gel are placed within many different products, such as food, clothing, and electrical items, as they help absorb water vapor, thus preventing products from getting damp and becoming damaged or soiled. The silica gel balls or beads contained within these little packets are essentially silicon dioxide, a porous form of sand.
Are silica gel beads toxic?
Is silica gel toxic to pets?