Dogs like to nibble on things around the house that aren’t supposed to be eaten. They may eat out of hunger, or out of boredom.
They may eat objects that smell like other dogs or that smell like their humans, especially when their human family isn’t home.
Eating candle wax in small amounts may not make your dog very sick—but there are times eating candle wax can make your dog very sick.
In this article, we will discuss what to expect and what to do when your dog eats candles.
How Eating Candles Affects Your Dog
Candles are most often made from beeswax, paraffin, or solidified soybean oil.
None of these candle-making materials is poisonous for dogs (so that’s a good thing).
It’s not possible to consume enough of these waxes to suffer poisoning that affects the heart, liver, or central nervous system.
However, when dogs eat wax, it can accumulate in their digestive tracts.
Small amounts of candle wax will soften when they come in contact with stomach acids. Then they will pass out through bowel movement.
Soy-based candles are especially easy to pass.
Very large amounts of candle wax could cause an intestinal blockage, but for this to happen the problem wouldn’t be that your dog was exploring things around your home.
This would be a problem with a condition called pica, discussed below. Usually, the ill effects caused by your dog’s eating a candle are just a temporary case of constipation.
Some candles contain perfumes, scents, or essential oils that can be toxic to your dog.
Usually, these chemicals are in very low concentrations, so they don’t make your dog sick.
However, essential oils of citrus, cinnamon, mint, peppermint, wintergreen, spearmint, tea tree, pine, eucalyptus, lemongrass, or ylang-ylang can give your dog a bad case of diarrhea.
Much more dangerous to your dog than any part of a candle are the wicks and metal parts.
Long candlewicks can get tangled up in your dog’s intestines. They can pull the stomach and small intestine together to look something like an accordion.
This can cause internal strangulation of the digestive tract that will be fatal if not treated by veterinary surgery.
Sharp edges of metal parts of candles can cut the throat, esophagus, stomach, or intestines, leading to a need for emergency veterinary treatment.
What You Need to Do If Your Dog Eats a Candle?
Don’t panic if you discover that your dog has eaten a candle, at least not until you have taken a few minutes to observe your dog first.
Take a careful look at how your dog seems to be doing. Does your dog seem to be in pain? Is there panting, drooling, or labored breathing?
If there are any of these symptoms, take your dog to the vet right away. Don’t wait overnight.
Find emergency veterinary treatment immediately. Be sure to take any remaining pieces of the candle and any labeling of its ingredients with you.
If your dog seems to have eaten a candle but doesn’t seem to be in distress, keep a careful eye out for changes for the next day or two.
If your dog shows any of the symptoms mentioned above, go to the veterinary emergency room.
Dogs that eat a small amount of candle wax that didn’t contain harmful chemicals may suffer nothing worse than a few days of constipation.
Adding a tablespoon of cooked, mashed pumpkin or pumpkin-flavored baby food (for humans) will help.
If your dog doesn’t have a bowel movement for 48 hours, call your veterinarian for advice.
Watchful waiting is the right strategy for letting your dog recover with a minimum of veterinary intervention.
While you are waiting to see whether symptoms develop, keep these guidelines in mind:
- If a string appears at either end of your dog’s digestive tract, don’t pull on it! Pulling a string caught on something in your dog’s digestive tract can pull tissues together like the previously mentioned accordion. This can cut off circulation and cause fatal internal gangrene.
- If your dog has bloody stools or urine, or if there are prominent black spots in your dog’s feces, see your vet for treatment right away.
- If your dog seems OK after three days, then it’s likely that no damage was done. You may not ever see any pieces of candle in your dog’s feces if only a small amount was eaten.
Keeping Your Dog Safe
If you have a puppy, or your older dog likes to explore the world by eating, it’s important to keep candles out of reach.
Store candles where your dog can not eat them. To secure candles and other potentially toxic items, you may need to dog-proof your cabinets the same way you would keep them safe from toddlers.
Dogs that repeatedly get into things may need to be kept in a crate when you are away from home.
If your dog is not crate-tolerant, you may need to keep him in a small room with all dangerous objects removed.
Dealing with Pica
Some dogs eat non-food items compulsively.
These dogs may eat candles, cardboard, small hardware items, pillow stuffing, dirt, twist ties, rubber bands, and many other items that may cause them serious damage.
Dogs that have a compulsion to eat non-food items may have a condition called pica.
Pica is a kind of canine OCD.
Dogs that have pica may have other symptoms of compulsive behaivor, such as chasing shadows or chasing their tails for hours on end.
Dogs may perform these compulsive behaviors in lieu of other things, such as normal napping cycles or even normal sleep at night.
They may destroy their tails because they do so much damage to them, requiring them to be amputated, or eat so many non-food items that they develop nutritional deficiencies even if they don’t damage their digestive tracts.
Pica usually starts about the time a dog becomes sexually mature (when they are six to nine months old).
When a dog is stressed, it uses pica as one of its coping mechanisms.
The practice of eating non-food items becomes separated from the stresses of sexual maturity, and they practice it all the time. Shadow chasing and tail-chasing follow a similar pattern.
When you take your dog in to get treatment for this problem, your vet will look for certain patterns, Some are breed-specific.
- Dogs that eat non-food items like candles on a regular basis, may also spend a lot of time licking things. They may lick real objects, or “lick air,” licking objects that arent theyre.
- Dogs suffering pica often also have skin irritation or scarring caused by excessive self-licking.
- Doberman Pinschers will suck their flanks in addition to eating non-food items like candles.
- German Shepherd Dogs will also chase their tails. Bull Terriers will spin around on the floor. Miniature Schnauzers will spend excessive time checking their hind ends.
- Dogs that have pica, not just experimenting by eating a non-food iteam once, tend also to have hallucinatory disorders. They may stare into space, snap at objects that aren’t there, They may bark monotonously for hours on end at nothing immediately evident to people or other dogs.
- Dogs that suffer pica may howl and whine, or become aggressive toward their human family.
Canine psychiatric problems aren’t always “either-or.” Some dogs will have much milder symptoms if their owners can make adjustments in their environments.
It’s important to avoid both too much stimulation and too little stimulation.
Dogs shouldn’t be left alone so much that they get bored and start eating strange things or chasing their tails, but they shouldn’t be given so much to do that they indulge in the behaviors listed earlier just to escape the stress.
These self-destructive behaviors will happen even when you aren’t around. However, it is usually possible to interrupt these kinds of behaviors in your dog.
Be gentle but direct. Give your dog something easy to do. This can be “Come here” or “Fetch” or “Deinner Time!”
You can help to reduce pica and other symptoms of canine OCD with some simple interventions:
- If there is constant stress with another dog or another pet in the family, try to keep them separate.
- Make clear to your dog that you are the boss with kind and consistent action. Focus on rewards, not punishment.
- Provide your dog with a consistent daily routine: Meals at the same time, play at the same time, walks and games at the same time every day. Have a backup activity your dog enjoys in case you cannot go outside.
- Make sure your dog gets enough exercise and has a variety of activities.
- Provide your dog with interesting toys.
- Train your dog to do things you want them to do with food rewards. Build an expectation that good behavior will be rewarded with edible treats.
- Your vet may prescribe medication for canine OCD. Make sure your dog takes it as prescribed.
Veterinary treatment of canine OCD usually takes four to six weeks.
The combination of medication, changes in your dog’s environment, and your loving attention and training can get rid of canine OCD for good.
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