Like some toddlers, dogs attempt to consume just about anything they find that may be potentially tasty. This includes things that arent meant to be eaten. Silica gel packs, used in packaged products ranging from shoes to vitamins to pizza crusts, are just the type of nonedible item a dog may eat if given the chance. While the silica itself should cause no harm, the packet may contain dye or substances absorbed from the item that contained the packet.
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 Happens If My Dog Has Eaten Silica Gel?
Depending on the size of your dog and the amount of silica gel they have eaten, it may be necessary for a veterinary visit for further assessment and treatment. This may include inducing vomiting, x-rays, or hospitalization for observation and treatment.
Alternatively, your veterinarian may suggest monitoring at home is all that is necessary. If your veterinarian would like you to monitor your dog, you should look for any signs that your dog is not feeling like his normal self. This may include signs of an upset stomach such as vomiting, nausea, drooling, and abdominal pain. Lethargy and diarrhea may also be seen. You may also notice silica gel packets being passed in your dog’s stool. You should contact your veterinarian with an update if your pet’s condition and symptoms are worsening, especially if you notice lethargy or that your dog cannot keep food or water down. If your dog is not passing feces or struggling to defecate it is advisable to contact your veterinarian urgently.
Are those packaging freshness packets really toxic to dogs?
Dr. Catherine Angle, MPH Staff Veterinarian Pet Poison Helpline
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: Is it toxic? A: Virtually non-toxic.
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.
Charcoal or Activated Carbon
Q: Is it toxic? A: Virtually non-toxic.
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: Is it toxic? A: Potentially toxic!
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.
Is Silica Gel Toxic To Dogs?
Whilst the silica gel itself is not toxic to dogs, ingestion of significant quantities may result in an upset stomach. If your dog eats large quantities of silica gel this may result in a blockage within the gut. It is also important to consider whether your dog has ingested additional items, such as the item that contained the silica gel packet, since this may lead to additional varied symptoms. It is best to contact your veterinarian for advice when your dog has eaten something that they shouldn’t have or if you are uncertain about the safety of the ingested item. Symptoms you might notice after your dog eats silica gel include:
Is silica gel toxic to dogs?