Lighters are easily found in every home as they are used to fulfill different purposes and sometimes we don’t really mind where we leave them. However, if you’re not careful enough your dog may find the lighter and eat it out of curiosity or boredom.
If your dog ate a lighter, this is a medical emergency and you should call your veterinarian right now, on the other hand, if you’re reading this article just out of curiosity or prevention, read below to know more about why lighters are dangerous for dogs.
What should you do if your dog eats a lighter?
In the unfortunate case that your dog ingested lighter fluid or a whole lighter, call your veterinarian or bring your dog to the nearest animal clinic.
Lighters are a double threat because of the fluid and the hard materials they’re made of, so they could potentially cause several troubles for your dog. Lighter fluid is, of course, toxic for both dogs and humans, so it’s fundamental to get it out of your dog’s system.
At the veterinarian, they will run a series of tests, including a blood test and drawing liquids from various organs to see if there’s damage in any of them.
Your veterinarian will probably avoid inducing vomiting in your dog because liquids can be aspirated. However, if your dog ate a whole lighter without chewing it, things might get a little more complicated.
In this case, an x-ray may also be necessary to locate the pieces of the lighter and, if needed, to proceed with surgery to remove them.
Your veterinarian may also decide to administer activated charcoal instead of aspirating the lighter liquid, because activated charcoal can absorb toxic substances and it’s therefore used in a large variety of situations, from toxic ingestions to cleaning purposes.
After administering the activated carbon, your dog needs to be monitored to see how the situation develops and treat possible symptoms as they show up. Depending on the seriousness of the situation, your dog might need to be hospitalized until he’s out of the woods.
What should you do if you can’t go to the veterinarian?
If it’s after hours or a holiday, contact your nearest 24-hour animal hospital. Be aware that hospital fees for after-hours might turn out more expensive than normal.
If you can’t afford the possible medical expenses that this situation will cause, you should look into your local animal organizations to see if there’s any cheaper option or financial aid available.
You should nonetheless call your veterinarian and explain the situation, because if your dog isn’t showing symptoms, they may decide to guide you through it from home.
At home, you can try making your dog drink water or milk to dilute the lighter fluid, but only if they’re not vomiting or feeling sick. After that, the veterinarian may suggest treating your dog with a bland diet and symptomatic treatment of any symptom that may show up.
A bland diet is particularly effective for dogs that only show GI tract symptoms (nausea, diarrhea, vomiting) and it usually includes white rice and boneless boiled chicken.
Cook the chicken with abundant water until it turns into mush and only feeds a small portion of this diet to your dog until they feel better. A few teaspoons every 2-4 hours should be fine to start with.
If your dog stops vomiting you can slowly increase the amount of food given. You can also feed your dog pureed baby food as long as it doesn’t contain anything dangerous like garlic or onion in the ingredients.
Make sure your dog is drinking enough water and don’t give them medications unless you’re instructed to do so by your veterinarian because they may make their GI tract symptoms worse or even cause severe gastrointestinal conditions.
If your dog continues to act fine or just shows mild discomfort but they’re eating and drinking, they’re probably out of danger, but if you notice any deterioration, it’s time for a medical examination.
What happens if your dog eats a lighter?
Dogs don’t usually eat lighters, but they may find them interesting enough to play with them. If your dog chewed a lighter, they may not eat it whole, but swallow small pieces of it which could hurt their GI tract.
Although rare, obstruction and internal wounds are possible even with small items like lighters. If your dog ate one of those big lighters for barbecue, it’s even more concerning.
A gastrointestinal blockage is often seen in dogs given their habits to eat whatever they come across, however the frequency of it doesn’t make it any less dangerous.
In severe cases, GI obstruction can lead to open-abdominal surgery, which can be risky and sometimes compromise the health of your dog for the rest of their lives. Not to mention, surgery can be very expensive.
Common symptoms of gastrointestinal blockage in dogs include:
- Lack of appetite
- Low energy levels
- Abdominal pain
- Excessive whining
- Lying in unusual positions
The prognosis for gastrointestinal blockage is usually good if treated in time, so make sure to contact your veterinarian if you notice one or more of these symptoms.
The plastic shards of the lighter are sharp enough to pierce the walls of the esophagus, stomach, or intestines. When the membrane protecting the GI tract is damaged, your dog may be at risk of developing conditions such as peritonitis.
Peritonitis is a serious and often lethal condition in dogs. In fact, this inflammation of the peritoneum has a mortality rate between 50% and 70% in dogs.
When the membrane that lines the abdominal cavity is damaged, contents from the stomach and intestines spill out and contaminate the rest of the body. This usually provokes severe bacterial infections that enter the blood and quickly reach the major organs.
Early symptoms of peritonitis are similar to those you see with GI tract conditions, however, dogs usually develop a fever and may show traces of blood in the vomit or stools (black stools) when there’s a perforation of the intestines.
Recovery depends on the seriousness of the situation and how quickly peritonitis was diagnosed and treated.
When your dog chews on something they shouldn’t, the only positive side is that pieces may be made less sharp by the continuous chewing and might not be as dangerous as they would be if they were whole.
What happens if your dog eats lighter fluid?
First of all, consider the possibility that your dog might not have eaten lighter fluid even if they ate the lighter. In fact, when a dog chews on a lighter, they might break it and the liquid butane contained in it will dissolve in the air.
However, even just inhaling butane can be very dangerous for your dog, even though in many cases the amount contained in a small lighter isn’t enough to cause severe problems.
If your dog drank lighter fluid, the burning feeling the fluid causes may hurt their mouth, throat, esophagus, and stomach. Some dogs usually vomit as a consequence of the burning sensation, but in doing so they could end up inhaling the petroleum in the process.
Petroleum is dangerous for dogs and humans alike because it contains hydrocarbons that are extremely toxic and can cause severe health problems and even death as a result of untreated illnesses.
Dogs can become intoxicated through:
– Skin contact: direct contact with the liquid (ex: the lighter broke and spilled liquid on the floor and your dog touched it); it will cause skin irritation and will be eventually ingested when the dogs lick the irritated part;
– Inhalation: dogs can inhale petroleum when they vomit the lighter fluid, or they might inhale it when they break a lighter and the butane dissolves in the air around them; inhalation of large quantities of petroleum gas may lead to permanent lungs damage and death;
– Ingestion: dogs ingest petroleum when they lick themselves after touching the liquid or by ingesting the lighter; some dogs show no symptoms apart from irritation, but others may develop hypoglycemia a few days after the ingestion, along with other symptoms such as weakness, weight loss, and general discomfort. You might also find oil in their feces;
If you can smell the oil on your dog or you know they ingested lighter fluid, bring them to the nearest animal hospital. By taking fluid samples from the main organs the veterinarian may confirm the diagnosis of petroleum poisoning.
Treatment and recovery depend on the type of poisoning and the seriousness of your dog’s conditions.
If my dog ate a lighter will he be fine?
The average cigarette lighter is usually too small to cause severe troubles for a medium-size dog, however every situation and every dog is different, and ingesting a lighter or lighter fluid should be nonetheless treated as a medical emergency.
The plastic from the lighter may cause gastrointestinal blockage or internal wounds that may lead to peritonitis, which is often lethal for dogs. Lighter fluid in itself is even more dangerous because petroleum poisoning is a very dangerous condition that can also be lethal for your pooch.
If you are unable to bring your dog to the veterinarian, you should at the very least call the Pet Poison Helpline or the ASPCA to get advice.
Sometimes, the situation is manageable from home, but if not, do not hesitate to have your dog examined because their life could be on the line.