Overview of Detergent Pod Toxicity in Dogs
Laundry and dishwasher detergent pods are single use packages of detergent shaped into balls or rectangles shapes commonly referred to as “pods”. The detergent is packaged with an outer wrapper that is easily dissolved by water. The laundry detergent pods come in round and rectangular shapes and attractive colors that attract dogs and appear as toys. Some dogs will play with, bat, chase, as well as bite in to or ingest these “pods”.
Pets have a long history of exposure to various soaps and detergents but the potential for toxicity has increased with the development of washer-friendly “soap pod” packaging.
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.
According to the Pet Product Hotline – signs can be severe because they pods are highly concentrated and pressurized. When the pod is punctured, the pressure can cause product to forcefully enter the pets mouth which can be ingested or aspirated (inhaled) in to the lungs. It is also possible for ingestion of a pod to cause ulcerations in the stomach.
Symptoms of Laundry or Dishwasher Detergent Pod Toxicity:
Chemical oral burns may not show up immediately. It may be several hours before you notice any of the following symptoms:
According to the Pet Poison Helpline (PPH), severe clinical signs were associated with dogs exposed to the detergent pods. PPH data showed that 72.19% of pets developed clinical signs including vomiting, cough, lethargy, and trouble breathing.
- Trouble breathing
- Lack of interest in eating
- Excessive swallowing
- Chemical burns to the tongue can cause a whitening of the surface skin tissue.
Diagnosis of Detergent Pod Toxicity in Dogs
The determination of a toxicity diagnosis is most often based on the history of ingestion of a detergent pod. Some pet owners may not witness ingestion but see or smell detergent in the vomit.
Treatment of Detergent Pod 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 primary treatment is to dilute the exposed site as much as possible.
The following guidelines are useful for immediate care prior to veterinary attention:
- If soap or detergent has been ingested, the best initial treatment is to flush the mouth with large amounts of water to limit the damage.
- DO NOT induce vomiting. Doing so may cause more harm as sensitive tissues are exposed to caustic or toxic chemicals again.
- Call your veterinarian to determine the severity of the product ingested.
- If the detergent gets in your pet's eyes, flush the area with water or sterile saline solution for 20 minutes. Seek veterinary attention as pets may have a corneal ulceration that needs specialized care. For more information – please read Corneal Ulceration in Dogs.
DERMAL (SKIN) EXPOSURE
- If detergent gets on your pet's skin, the best treatment is flushing or rinsing the area for 10 minutes with cool water.
- Mild symptoms may be treated with supportive care including limited activity to minimize respiratory effort.
- Antibiotics may be indicated if a secondary infection is suspected.
- Severe respiratory signs may require oxygen support, steroids to decrease inflammation, drugs to dilate (bronchodilators) the airways and oxygen therapy to support the respiratory system.
ADDITIONAL VETERINARY CARE
- If the burn is isolated to the mouth, a topical cleaning agent such as Gly-oxide® is used three times daily. This can help remove dead tissue and reduce the risk of infection.
- Medications such as sucralfate (Carafate®) are used when the esophagus and stomach are affected. Sucralfate is a medication that coats the injured tissues and helps hasten recovery.
- Some pets with severe chemical oral burns do not have the desire to eat. Maintaining nutrition is important in the healing process. Animals that will not eat on their own will require a temporary feeding tube. Most commonly, a tube is placed through the esophagus or stomach a slurry of food in then fed several times a day to ensure adequate calorie intake.
- Pain control medication may be necessary.
- Severe burns in the mouth or esophagus may require hydration with fluid therapy.
- Most chemical oral burns heal within 1-2 weeks.