My Dog Ate Silica Gel: What Should I Do Now?

Think about any non-edible item and you can be sure a dog out there has tried it at least once. We cannot stop their endless curiosity, especially when it comes to food packaging like silica gel. These little packages aren’t present only in clothes or shoe boxes, but also in food jars and pizza crusts.

If your dog ate silica gel, first of all, know that the white/transparent silica gel beads are non-toxic and won’t harm your dog in small amounts, nonetheless, look out for symptoms of discomfort, but if your dog acts and eats normally in the following hours, they should be fine.

What should you do if your dog ate silica gel?

In the case that your dog ate silica gel beads, you’re lucky because this material is usually non-toxic to dogs. However, there are some exceptions.

As in many other foreign object ingestions, take into consideration the size of your dog. Smaller dogs may experience GI obstruction more easily than big dogs. However, a single packet of silica gel doesn’t contain enough beads to be dangerous.

If the silica gel was packed with foods or items that could be poisonous to your dog, call the Pet Poison Hotline and alert your veterinarian. Your dog will most likely need to be examined and treated.

Sometimes silica gel has added dyes to it. They are moisture indicators: the darker the color, the higher amount of moisture the beads absorbed.

Usually, moisture indicators are blue, orange, pink, or green. These dyes could be harmful to your pet, so if your dog ate dyed silica gel, they’re at risk of intoxication and you should contact your veterinarian.

What should you do if your dog ate a silica gel packet?

The porous packet is usually more dangerous than the gel itself. If your dog ate a silica gel packet and is suffocating, try to get the item out of their throat with your fingers or a spoon.

Dogs can get aggressive when they panic, so be sure to take the right precautions. As an alternative, you can practice the Heimlich maneuver on them by gently pressing their belly below the ribcage.

Watch out for symptoms of abdominal discomfort, because these packets can easily cause blockage, especially in small breed dogs. Your veterinarian should be alerted immediately if your dog eats a packet of silica gel.

If you’re lucky and your dog ate the desiccant alone after destroying the packet, they should be fine as long as the beads are the transparent ones.

What happens if a dog eats silica gel? 

A dog may feel sick if they ingest a big amount of silica gel, if they ate the packet along with it or if the silica gel touched something that is bad for dogs.

The average packet of silica gel is very small, so if your dog discarded the packaging and went for the beads, they should be fine.

Unlucky ingestion of silica gel can lead to intoxication, dehydration, and bowel obstruction. Luckily, the symptoms are usually easily identifiable.

If you notice any of the following symptoms in your dog after they ingested silica gel, bring them to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Intoxication 

Intoxication can be caused by the moisture indicator or by whatever was packed with the silica gel.

Dyes could cause allergic reactions, intoxication, dermatitis, or other unpredictable consequences depending on the dog. Dangerous foods or items packed with silica gel could even kill your dog.

Your dog will be drawn to the silica gel by the scent, but they won’t be able to discern a toxic material from a safe one. It is up to you to keep it away from them.

Symptoms of intoxication in dogs include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in the stools (very dark/black stools)
  • Drooling
  • Pale gums
  • Increased heart rate
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures
  • Collapse

The most used dyes are cobalt (II) chloride and Methyl Violet. The first is a known SVHC (Substance of Very High Concern) for the European Chemicals Agency, which considers it a carcinogen.

Methyl Violet is toxic if swallowed and has been proved to cause lung thrombosis in dogs.

If you fear that your dog has ingested something harmful, do not waste time and bring them to the vet.

Dehydration 

A dog that experiences vomiting or diarrhea because of bad ingestion can get dehydrated very quickly. Dehydration is really harmful to your dog and they will require emergency assistance.

If your dog gets severely dehydrated, they won’t have enough electrolytes for their organs to function properly and this could send them into shock.

Symptoms of severe dehydration in dogs include:

  • Lethargy
  • Dry eyes, mouth, and nose
  • Skin loses elasticity
  • Weakness
  • Bright red gums
  • Increased heart rate
  • Heavy breathing

There are two easy methods to check for dehydration in your dog, one by testing their skin and the other by checking their gums.

Skin test: pinch your dog’s skin between their shoulders and gently lift it a couple of inches. Release it and see how long it takes for the skin to snap back. In a dog that is normally hydrated, it should snap back immediately. If it takes a few seconds or the skin seems to remain pinched, your dog is severely dehydrated.

Gums test: lift your dog’s lip and check the color of their gums. Press your index on the gum until it turns white. Release it, and see how long it takes for the gum to take its natural color back. Normally, blood should flow back immediately. If it takes up to three seconds to turn back normal, your dog is dehydrated.

A severely dehydrated dog will require intravenous rehydration as soon as possible.

For mild dehydration, your veterinarian will still most likely ask you to bring your pooch in. In the meantime, you can try to slowly rehydrate your dog by giving them a little water every 3-5 minutes.

GI obstruction 

The packet of the silica gel can cause choking, abdominal discomfort, and blockage in the intestines.

Of course, the risk increases the bigger the packet or the number of packets ingested. A big dog eating a single packet of silica gel should be fine, a small dog with the same amount could be at risk.

Symptoms of gastrointestinal blockage in dogs include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Dehydration
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Whining

GI obstruction is the most common consequence after dangerous ingestions in dogs, sometimes it solves by itself, and other times it will require endoscopy or medical surgery to remove the foreign object.

Surgery is invasive and can bear unpredictable consequences for old dogs or dogs with pre-existing conditions.

Even healthy dogs could be affected by the aftermath of surgery and it could potentially lower their quality of life or shorten their lifespan, which is why prevention is always the best treatment to cure all evil.

Silica gel vs oxygen absorber.

Many people mistake silica gel for oxygen absorber. Both silica gel and oxygen absorber come in small packets labeled “Do Not Eat”, but are very different things.

Not only they can’t be used together, but oxygen absorber is actually poisonous for your dog.

Silica gel is natural and non-toxic. It’s made from a compound called silicon dioxide, a combination of silicon and oxygen. It is found naturally in quartz, glass, and sand. The silica beads can be considered a sort of ‘man-made’ sand.

Silica gel is added to packaging because of its absorbing ability. In fact, the beads can absorb up to 30% of their weight in water, so they help reduce moisture inside the package and keep the content fresh and dry.

On the other hand, oxygen absorber contains iron and uses moisture to activate and prevent oxidation, keeping the food fresh longer. If silica gel absorbs moisture, the process cannot activate.

What should you do if your dog ate an oxygen absorber?

If your dog ate an oxygen absorber, they will most likely need a medical check-up to decontaminate the body from the iron.

Iron can be very toxic to dogs even in small amounts. Oxygen absorber can cause GI obstruction and also has a corrosive effect when ingested.

Early symptoms of iron poisoning in dogs are:

  • Swelling in the abdomen
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Hyperactivity (panic)
  • Seizures

Iron poisoning in dogs can sometimes be misinterpreted in the first few hours, but the symptoms can reappear even after weeks. However, by then there could be already damage to the liver and other organs, so it’s important not to overlook the early stages of poisoning.

If you suspect that your dog may have eaten an oxygen absorber, call your vet immediately.

Is silica gel poisonous to dogs?

Clean silica gel (transparent beads) are non-toxic to both humans and dogs. It’s true that all silica gel packets come with the ominous ‘Do Not Eat’ lettering, which makes us think we’re going to get poisoned if we do.

That’s because, of course, silica gel is not meant to be eaten, but accidental ingestion of a small number of beads won’t harm your dog. The real danger of silica gel resides in its dye and in the porous packet.

If your dog ate the freshness packet and feels sick, it’s probably because of a bad reaction to the dye or a problem provoked by the packet.

Can dogs eat silica gel?

Dogs cannot eat silica gel so make sure you don’t leave any lying around. Do whatever you need to do to prevent your dog from eating the beads, even if it means locking them inside another room as you unpack your stuff.

Although clean silica gel (white/transparent beads) may be harmless if ingested in small quantities, many silica gel beads come with colorful dyes that can be toxic to your dog.

The packet that contains the beads is also very dangerous for your pet and it’s the main culprit behind serious consequences of dogs eating silica gel.

When you find silica gel in your packages, make sure to store it or throw it out where your dog cannot find it. Remember their sense of smell is very strong and their curiosity is even stronger.