My dog Bongo is like a furry vacuum cleaner. He ‘sucks’ almost everything into his mouth without giving it much thought. We had a few close calls but thank goodness he got away unharmed.
Dogs are notorious for eating weird things and some common items found at home, like silica gel, can end up being harmful to our dogs.
Can silica gel kill a dog? Is it really that toxic to be fatal?
If your dog has eaten some silica gel it should not cause much of a problem. The cause of concern is when your dog has eaten a large amount which can be toxic and dangerous to your dog.
In this article, let us learn more about what silica gel is and how concerned should you be if your dog has eaten some silica gel packets or silica gel beads.
What Is Silica Gel?
Silica gel is usually found in a silica gel packet that is in many of our products. These silica gel packets are called desiccants. Its main job is to absorb and hold onto moisture in the air.
Moisture in food, electronics and medication is bad as it causes condensation and promotes the growth of mold and bacteria.
Silica gel beads on their own are rather harmless which is why food manufacturers are fine putting them in food products.
They are made from sand, glass and quartz.
The amazing thing about silica beads is that they can absorb up to 40% of their weight in moisture. That can bring down the moisture level in the air by a large amount.
Different Types Of Silica Gel
Many of us know silica gel as the ones that we find in our food packets with the ‘Do Not Eat’ warning. But there is more than one tye of silica gel that is used commercially.
White Silica Gel
This is the usual and more common type of silica gel that you see and get in your product packaging. This silica gel continues to be white even when it starts to absorb moisture.
Blue Silica Gel
There are some silica gels that can change color when it is full of moisture. Blue silica gel turns pink when it is full of moisture. You can reuse it by heating it up in the microwave to get rid of the moisture.
Once it turns back to blue, the silica gel is good to be resued.
Do not use this type of silica gel in any food products as it contains cobalt chloride which is poisonous.
Orange Silica Gel
Similar to blue silica gel, orange silica gel will change color from orange to green when it is full of moisture.
It contains methyl violet which is a toxic substance.
Orange silica gel can be reheated to be reused once it is full of moisture.
What To Do If Your Dog Eats Silica Gel?
First of all, don’t panic.
Silica gel isn’t toxic material and won’t do much harm to your dog, unlike other toxic substances.
The most important thing to ascertain here is how much silica gel your dog has eaten.
If your dog ate silica gel in a single packet, it isn’t the best thing but it should be fine. These silica gel packets are rather small and don’t contain that many silica beads.
Try opening its mouth and remove the remaining contents of the packet.
It is more worrisome when it comes to dogs eating silica gel in large amounts. The larger amount of silica beads in your dog’s body can cause a number of adverse reactions.
Not only does the amount of silica gel ingested makes a difference, but also the type of silica gel especially blue and orange silica gel.
It is alarming to have your dog eat silica gel knowing that it can be toxic to your canine friend. But as long as it is just a small quantity of white silica gel beads, it should be fine.
The problem arises when your dog happens to ingest more toxic silica gel beads that contain chemical compounds to indicate the moisture level.
Cobalt chloride in blue silica gel is very toxic and can damage the blood, liver and lungs of the dog. It can also irritate the linings of the respiratory tract.
Methyl violet in orange silica gel can cause fatal pulmonary alterations in dogs. In other words, dogs that ingest methyl violet can suffer difficulty in breathing, shortness of breath and chest tightness.
If your dog has ingested silica gel that has color indicators, you need to bring it to the vet immediately for an examination.
One potential risk of ingesting silica beads is stomach or gastrointestinal blockage. Silica gel is chemically and biologically inert. This means that these beads do not break down.
A partial or full blockage in dogs can be fatal and a blockage can happen anywhere along the digestive tract.
Food and water are not able to pass through the intestinal tract. A dog can die within 7 days because of this.
A dog suffering from an intestinal obstruction will show the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
One rather obvious sign that your dog is having an intestinal blockage is bloating. Your dog’s stomach will look swollen and feel hard to the touch.
A bloated stomach is very uncomfortable for your dog and you can see it stretching its neck and looking up to try and relieve the pressure.
If you have a puppy at home, you need to be more careful of leaving silica gel packets around. Puppies have a much smaller digestive system which makes it easier for blockages to occur.
Please do not hesitate to get your dog to the veterinarian immediately if you suspect a stomach blockage.
The vet will have to do a scan of the stomach to ascertain where the blockage is and surgery might be required to clear it.
The main job of silica gel is to remove moisture from its surroundings. When a dog eats silica beads, the beads will start to absorb the moisture and electrolytes in the dog’s body which leads to dehydration.
This condition will be more serious if the dog has eaten a large number of silica beads.
Severe dehydration in dogs can cause:
- Dry nose
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive thirst
The thing is, your dog won’t be able to tell you that it is feeling thirsty but there are a couple of tests that you can do.
This is a good test to tell if your dog is dehydrated. Pinch some of the skin between its shoulder blades and release it.
Observe how the skin falls back into place.
In a hydrated dog, the skin will promptly spring back into place. In a dog that is dehydrated, the skin will take a longer time to move back.
Check Your Dog’s Gums
If your dog’s gums are sticky and dry it could be dehydrated. To further confirm this, press your finger on your dog’s gums and observe the change in color. It should turn white and then return back to its original color quickly.
If the dog is dehydrated, it will take longer than usual.
Do not feed your dog drinks like Gatorade to try and rehydrate it. You need to take it to the vet for the clinic to administer a drip to rehydrate your dog.
My Dog Ate Oxygen Absorbers
Oxygen absorbers are little packets that contain iron fillings, clay and salt. Oxygen absorbers are generally used to keep food items fresh by removing the oxygen in the packaging to prevent rancidification.
The main difference between oxygen absorbers and silica gel is that oxygen absorbers are used to remove oxygen in the air and not moisture. Whereas silica gel absorbs moisture.
Oxygen Absorbers are safe to use and FDA-approved but they can be potentially toxic if your dog eats a picket of oxygen absorbers.
Oxygen absorbers contain iron fillings that can become corrosive in your dog’s stomach. This can lead to vomiting, diarrhea and lack of appetite.
The more serious cases of iron poisoning from ingesting a packet of oxygen absorber is in smaller dogs that weigh less than 15 lbs.
Any dog that is suffering from iron poisoning needs immediate medical attention.
One form of treatment is to induce vomiting in your dog to try and get rid of the iron fillings in its digestive system.
Is Silica Sealant Toxic To Dogs?
A silicon sealant is a liquid adhesive that is used for basic repairs, sealing cracks and providing a waterproof seal for connecting parts.
In general, silicon sealant isn’t really a major danger for dogs but the dog is still a risk of an intestinal obstruction if ingested in large amounts.
Closely observe your dog for a day or two to make sure it doesn’t show any symptoms of a blockage.
Can Silica Packets Kill Cats?
If you have cats at home too, please keep any silica gel packets away from them. Cats have a more sensitive biological makeup and are more prone to toxic poisoning.
Furthermore, given the smaller size of cats, it is easier for the silica packet to become an intestinal blockage.
In the event that your cat has eaten a silica packet, please take it to the vet to make sure that there’s no danger to your cat’s health.
It might seem stressful to dog owners that something so commonly found can pose a serious threat to our dogs.
Most dogs are intuitive to know what they should and should not eat.
However, there are some dogs and cats that let their curiosity get the better of them. It is always best to consult your vet in the event that your dog happens to ingest silica gel.