Detergent and soap toxicity in dogs

Detergents and Soap Toxicity in Dogs

Overview of Toxicity of Detergents and Soap in Dogs

Dogs can get into all kinds of potentially toxic household items including soaps and detergents. In the past soap and detergent toxicity (or poisoning) in dogs was relatively uncommon as the taste is generally unappealing. However, the risks and number of affected animals have soared with the development of washer-friendly “soap pod” packaging.

Soap pods are single-use packages of laundry or dishwasher detergent designed for convenience and ease of use. They are typically rectangles or balls of pressed detergent (sometimes with a liquid component) surrounded by a water-soluble wrapper.

This new packaging is convenient and cleaner than traditional liquids or powders. However, the toy like appearance of the pods can attract a pet’s attention more easily than other detergents. In the course of playing, your dog may ingest some or all of the soap as well as the wrapper.

Generally speaking, the majority of soaps and detergents are nontoxic. As with any non-food item, you can expect that your dog may experience some vomiting and maybe even a little diarrhea after exposure. However, different types of soap may be more or less toxic than the next. The most common forms are soaps, anionic detergents, cationic detergents, and non-ionic detergents. The average home typically contains at least one of each type at any time.

Types of soap dogs may ingest:

As mentioned above, some detergents cause a chemical burn. These physical reactions are the result of a pet ingesting or licking a caustic or corrosive chemical such as bleach or disinfectant. The burns are usually isolated to the tongue and upper esophagus; however, detergent pods can cause irritation to the stomach if they are swallowed whole and disintegrate in the stomach.

Chemical oral burns may not show up immediately. It may be several hours before you notice any of the following symptoms:

Diagnosis of Detergents & Soap Toxicity in Dogs

The determination of a toxicity diagnosis is most often based on the history of ingestion of a soap or detergent. It may also be based on characteristic changes on the surface of the tongue and a high suspicion of chemical oral burn. There are no specific blood tests or other diagnostics used to identify a chemical burn, although in severe cases sedation and endoscopy may be required to determine the extent of the damage.

Chemical burns on the tongue usually cause a whitening of the surface skin tissue. The edges of the tongue may become red and raw. The white surface eventually sloughs off, leaving the surface of the tongue raw and the exposed tissue visible.

Further damage can be assessed with the use of an endoscope, a thin flexible tube which is inserted through the mouth into the esophagus and stomach. The endoscope can help visualize internal surfaces of the digestive system without surgery. The extent of the burn can then be determined and the vet can decide appropriate treatment.

Treatment of Detergents & Soap Toxicity in Dogs

The treatment for soap or detergent ingestion depends on the type of chemicals ingested and how much of the mouth, esophagus and stomach are involved. There is no specific antidote. The following guidelines are useful for immediate care prior to veterinary attention:






It is crucial to keep all chemicals safely stored away from inquisitive pets. Do not assume that a dog will not ingest something because it has a bad taste. Do not leave household cleaners unattended near your dog and take particular care to store harmful chemicals such as cleaners first when putting away groceries.