Have you seen the small, white packets that have ‘Do not eat,’ ’Throw Away’ written in bold, capitalized form on them? These packets can be found inside packaging boxes for electronics, handbags, shoes, and food, among others.
These packets contain silica gel in them. It is used as a drying agent to prevent any damage due to moisture.
Dogs, as you know, can sink their teeth into the most unimaginable of objects. So, it is possible for them to bite into a packet of silica gel and even ingest some. What can you do in such a scenario? What symptoms can the dog show? Can silica gel kill a dog? How can the vet help? Let us find some answers.
- What is Silica Gel?
- Where Can You Find Silica Gel?
- Why Will a Dog Eat Silica Gel?
- Can Silica Gel Kill a Dog?
- What Can Happen If Your Dog Eats Silica Gel?
- What Can Happen If Your Dog Eats the Silica Gel Packet?
- What to do if Your Dog ate Silica Gel?
- What Treatment Will the Vet Provide?
- How Will the Dog Recover After Eating Silica Gel?
- How to Prevent Your Dog From Eating Silica Gel?
What is Silica Gel?
The gel is a form of silicon dioxide. It is a compound that is easily found in nature. The compound has a molecular structure in which there are alternating atoms of silicon and oxygen along with voids and pores.
The structure gives silica the ability to absorb and hold moisture. A single packet of the gel can hold up to 40% of its weight in moisture. Once the gel is filled with water, it can regain its absorption capacity by simply reheating it for a couple of hours.
If you open a silica gel packet, you will typically find the gel in granular or bead form. In addition, some packets may contain color indicator substances that tell you that the packet has absorbed moisture.
Where Can You Find Silica Gel?
One of the common uses of silica gel is as a desiccant or a drying agent. It is placed inside sealed packaged items to prevent moisture buildup. You may think the box is safe from external factors once closed, but that is untrue.
Moisture can enter boxes stored in warehouses for a long time. Unchecked moisture can damage the product and may also lead to mold. Thus, you will find silica gel granules or beads in small permeable bags placed inside the packaging.
You can find silica gel packets placed inside electronic boxes, handbags, shoes, food packets, coats, medications, supplements, and more.
Silica gel is used in cat litter, water filtration systems, and humidity indicators. It is also a food additive listed by the FDA. If added to food, the percentage should be below 2%.
Why Will a Dog Eat Silica Gel?
Silica gel packets can be placed inside food cartons to keep the food fresh and moisture away. The simple reason why a dog would eat silica gel is that the packet would smell and taste like the food it has. The packet is clearly labeled ‘DO NOT EAT,’ but there is no way your furry friend understands that.
Your dog is not particularly targeting the gel packet. But if you accidentally leave the packet in its food bowl, it may assume it is part of the food.
If your dog is suffering from pica, it could be why it tries to eat inanimate objects. Some dogs stick to particular things like shoes or bedding. On the other hand, some may bite into a broader range of objects.
Dogs consuming silica gel packets is a rare issue. Nothing is enticing about the gel, not smell, not taste. It will not go explicitly searching for silica gel. In cases where the dog has ingested the gel, is where the packets may have been left behind accidentally.
Can Silica Gel Kill a Dog?
Silica gel is not toxic to dogs. If your dog has consumed low quantities of granules or beads, they might pass the dog’s system without showing any symptoms. At the most, your dog may vomit.
If your dog has ingested a large quantity of the gel or the packet itself, then it could be a cause of concern. It can lead to pain, lethargy, and drooling. The vet can treat the dog depending on the symptoms.
In extreme cases, the vet could operate if there is abdominal obstruction. Please note, though, that is uncommon.
So, to answer the question, can silica gel kill a dog? It is unlikely. Yes, your dog may experience discomfort, but a quick consultation with the vet can help resolve the issue.
However, this does not mean you get lax while monitoring. If your dog has ingested the gel, please keep an eye out for any signs that could indicate abnormal behavior. And report to the vet accordingly.
What Can Happen If Your Dog Eats Silica Gel?
The exact symptoms will differ according to the dog’s size and the amount of gel ingested. For example, if your large dog ate some beads of silica gel before you snatched the packet away, it should be fine.
On the other hand, if you have a dog belonging to the toy breed, the same amount of silica gel can make it uncomfortable.
Another concern is the dyes used in the packets to indicate moisture absorption. Silica gel on its own is not toxic to your pet, but the dyes used can be harmful to dogs. The typical color dyes used are blue, green, and pink.
If your dog has eaten a large quantity of the gel or ingested the dye in the packet, it could show signs like:
If your dog is vomiting, pooping, and refusing to eat or drink water, it could get dehydrated. It could become too tired or weak to move around. These signs indicate the situation has gotten worse.
So, contact the vet as soon as you see the initial symptoms mentioned above. The earlier the dog receives the treatment, the better will be its condition.
What Can Happen If Your Dog Eats the Silica Gel Packet?
In most cases, it is not the silica gel but the packet that causes an issue. If a small dog gulps down an entire packet, it could block the digestive tract. This again is uncommon, as the dog will first bite into the packet, causing it to tear. But, yes, there is a rare chance that the dog could swallow the packet.
Now, these packets are usually small in size. So it may pass through the digestive system of your large dog and may end up in its poop. But the same-sized packet can be a choking hazard for a small pet. It could also cause blockages in the GI tract.
In case of a blockage, you will see similar symptoms like:
- Abdominal pain
The blockage may clear itself, or the vet might have to perform a procedure to remove the same.
What to do if Your Dog ate Silica Gel?
If you see your dog feasting on silica gel packets, here is what you should be doing.
- First off, take the packet away from the dog. If there are granules or beads strewn on the ground, clean them up. It would be best to confine the dog in a different room in the meantime.
- Try to figure out how much silica gel the dog has consumed. If you could take the packet away intact, there is no need to worry. If the packet is half-eaten or empty, you need to monitor your pet for the symptoms mentioned above.
- If the dog has swallowed the packet, you may need immediate vet care.
- Depending on the situation, the vet may ask you to monitor the dog at home and bring it to the clinic if it shows any symptoms.
If you feel like the dog could be choking, restrain the pet, open its mouth wide and do a finger sweep. It can help dislodge the item. If not, you will have to perform the Heimlich maneuver.
Do not try to induce vomiting. Without having a clear picture of where the packet might be lodged, vomiting can harm the dog’s health.
The best you can do when the dog eats silica gel is to monitor its condition and report to the vet as soon as possible.
What Treatment Will the Vet Provide?
The vet will perform a physical checkup, X-rays, or ultrasounds to find the location of the gel packet.
If you reach the vet’s clinic within a couple of hours of the gel being ingested, the vet may induce vomiting to get the foreign substance out. However, if it is more than 4-5 hours of the gel being ingested, vomiting may not help.
The treatment will then revolve around managing the symptoms. For example, if the dog is dehydrated, the vet may administer IV fluids to balance the electrolytes in its body. In case of severe symptoms, the vet might suggest hospitalization, where medical professionals can monitor the pet.
In the case of blockages, the vet will first see if the gel packet can pass through the dog’s stomach on its own.
If the packet has been lodged for too long or the dog’s symptoms worsen, the vet will have to perform surgery. This would be a major surgery, where the dog must be administered anesthesia.
If your dog is old or has pre-existing conditions, it may take longer to recover. Also, anesthesia comes with its own set of risks and side effects that you must understand before agreeing to the surgery.
How Will the Dog Recover After Eating Silica Gel?
In most cases, the dog can recover well after eating silica gel. If the ingested quantity is less, the dog may not even show any symptoms or have any side effects.
If your dog shows any signs, the vet can treat the same using medications and IV fluids.
In case of a blockage that does not resolve itself, the dog will have to undergo surgery. The recovery from this surgery can take time.
Anesthesia can have side effects like drowsiness, loss of appetite, and reduced activity level. Severe reactions could include blindness, seizures, and shock. However, severe reactions are found in less than 2% of animals administered anesthesia.
The dog may have to be hospitalized for a few days for observation and recovery purposes. After the dog is discharged, you may have to restrict its activities for a few days. If you notice any abnormal signs post-surgery, be sure to get in touch with the vet immediately.
How to Prevent Your Dog From Eating Silica Gel?
Silica gel is non-toxic. Dogs eating silica gel is uncommon. But, it is not alright for you to leave gel packets around.
If you bought home new electronics, shoes, or bags, ensure you get rid of the packaging responsibly. Do not let the packets be carelessly strewn on the floor Likewise, do not let the dog enjoy a scavenger hunt going through the thrash.
If there are silica gel packets in food boxes, again ensure to remove them. The packets should not find their way into the dog’s food bowl. It does not know what the packet is; it will happily chomp it down along with food.
If you want to use the gel packets, for example, inside coat pockets, then keep the coat away from the dog’s reach.
Dogs often eat non-edible objects if they are bored, anxious, or stressed. You can talk to a behaviorist or your vet to fix the root cause of the issue. This can help you create a safer environment for the dog while improving its overall health.
Silica gel is commonly used as a dry agent. It is typically found in granules or beads form. The chemical structure of the gel helps it absorb moisture. Thus, you will find small packets of this gel inside different product packaging.
If your dog accidentally eats a large quantity of silica gel, it can show symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite. If it consumes a large packet of the gel, in rare cases, it could lead to blockage in the digestive system.
The vet can treat the majority of symptoms of silica gel consumption. So, the answer to the question is, can silica gel kill a dog? It would be no. The dog may experience varying degrees of symptoms, but with proper vet care, it can recover well.
Heather Abraham is an owner of two dogs, one cat, a leopard gecko, and a parrot (who her dad still cannot teach bad words to), and an avid blogger. From the time she was a young girl, she always felt a connection with pets. She brings her love of every type of pet to you, with information on animal nutrition, medication, toys, beds, and everything else in between. Along with newly-on-board veterinarian DVM editor Elena, she puts pups first while offering other various fun tidbits along the way.