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What Should You Do If Your Dog Drank Bleach?

Bleach is present in almost every household as it’s a common product for cleaning. If you’re not careful enough, your pet may stumble upon it and decide to take a taste test, which often has catastrophic consequences.

In fact, if your dog drinks bleach, they will feel sick and you can expect a range of symptoms from mild to severe. Sometimes, your dog will need medical assistance right away, because bleach can be deadly for pets.

What should you do if your dog drinks bleach? 

If your dog drank bleach, alert your veterinarian immediately. In many cases, you will be asked to bring your dog in for a medical examination, because bleach and dogs are a dangerous and sometimes lethal combination.

Not all cases of bleach poisoning in dogs are medical emergencies because not all types of bleach are the same, but when a dog accidentally drank bleach, you can expect symptoms to show up quite quickly.

It is important to know how much bleach your dog ingested. If it is a small amount and your dog can drink, provide them with plenty of water or milk to help the bleach pass through without damages.

In any case, do not induce vomiting in your dog because the bleach may hurt them more coming back up. If your veterinarian suggests keeping your dog at home, for the time being, watch out for symptoms such as:

  • Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Blood in the vomit or stools
  • Persistent lack of appetite
  • Heavy breathing
  • Excessive stretching, especially of the back legs or neck
  • Swelling of the stomach

If you notice any of these symptoms, bring your dog to the emergency veterinarian right away.

What should you do if your dog drank diluted bleach? 

The good news is that diluted bleach is fairly less dangerous than drinking straight bleach and most dogs make a quick recovery if they don’t ingest too much.

If a young or adult dog drank bleach water, they will most likely show symptoms of gastrointestinal discomfort, but shouldn’t suffer from internal wounds or burnings because of the bleach.

Even if a puppy drank bleach that was diluted in water, they shouldn’t suffer extreme consequences. As always, preventive care is key, so you should immediately call your veterinarian after an accident happens.

They may suggest you give your dog or puppy Pepto Bismol to help the stomach. The daily dose of this antacid should be 1 ml per pound of body weight, split into smaller doses to give every 8 hours.

For example, a dog that weighs 30 pounds can get 30 ml of Pepto Bismol per day, a single 10 ml dose every 8 hours.

Provide plenty of water or milk and some extra food. It would be ideal to temporarily change their normal diet into a bland diet of plain rice, boneless chicken soup, or plain canned pumpkin. This would help the stomach and also bulk up the stools.

Feed your dog with small meals every hour. If they don’t vomit and look fine, you can slowly increase the amount of food. Keep them on the bland diet for a few days, then slowly re-introduce their normal diet.

Please note: what you read in this article is not a valid replacement for professional advice and you should always consult your veterinarian before administering medications or making changes to your dog’s diet.

What happens if a dog drinks bleach?

Depending on the type of bleach, the amount ingested and the circumstances behind the accident, a dog may experience mild to severe symptoms of bleach poisoning.

There are different products under the ‘bleach’ label, specifically:

– Household bleach: the most common type of bleach and the one we usually have at home. It is irritant but not corrosive and therefore less dangerous than other types of bleach. Its pH level is around 11;

– Ultra-concentrated bleach: this is commonly used by cleaning companies or on farms. It is very strong and has the potential to be lethal. Its pH level ranges from 12 to 12.5 and it can cause exterior and interior lesions that take weeks or months to heal;

– Non-chlorine bleach (color-safe bleach): this kind of bleach contains hydrogen peroxide, which is commonly used when trying to induce vomiting in dogs after dangerous ingestions. However, in this case, it is harmful because it indeed provokes vomiting, and the bleach may hurt or cause wounds coming up through the esophagus.

A dog drinking bleach of any kind will surely experience symptoms, however, even if they don’t ingest the product there are other ways in which bleach can be harmful to pets and cause different damage, including:

– Bleach fumes: if a dog inhales bleach gas for a long time, they will start coughing, gagging, drooling, heaving, and could even suffocate. A long exposure can also lead to blood and metabolism problems. These fumes are present in the house after you cleaned with bleach, so keep your dog away until everything is dry;

– Skin damage: external contact with bleach may cause burns and rashes. Make them a bath and rinse their fur and skin thoroughly with a mild dog shampoo. If you notice that the skin is too red, avoid any product and only use water;

– Eye damage: bleach can be irritating for the eyes. If the liquid or fumes end up in your dog’s eyes, they could even damage the cornea and compromise their sight. Your dog will have a hard time keeping their eyes open and they might start swelling. This requires immediate medical attention.

Why do dogs drink bleach? 

Bleach is always harmful to dogs and doesn’t smell good, so it’s hard to say what could push a dog to drink such dangerous products.

Some dog breeds will take one sniff at the bleach and look away, while others (like labradors) may even drink the whole thing without thinking twice.

Dogs explore the world with their nose and mouth and the scent of bleach may be interesting to them nonetheless.

It is also important to note that not all bleach is exposed under the sunlight: some products we have at home may contain bleach without us knowing.

When we leave these products around, dogs are bound to find them and take an interest in them, thus creating several situations in which your dog accidentally makes contact with bleach:

– Cleaning: this is a common mistake we make when using bleach to clean the house. We pour bleach water in a bucket and then leave the room for a minute; when we come back, our dog has already feasted on the bleach water;

– Water bowl: you should always remove your dog food and water bowls before cleaning, because some of it may end up in their bowls. You should always avoid using bleach to clean your dog’s items, because you may accidentally leave some bleach in dogs’ water;

– Toilet: some automatic toilet cleaners have bleach as one of their components or you may be pouring bleach down your toilet to clean it, unaware that your dog is drinking from the toilet bowl when you’re not looking;

– Accidents: maybe you spilled some cleaning product on the floor and your dog licked the bleach before you could clean it up. It’s always better to keep your dog out of the room while you’re cleaning, to avoid these accidents;

Symptoms and treatment of bleach poisoning in dogs. 

Luckily, bleach poisoning is not a silent condition and your dog might start showing up symptoms immediately after drinking it.

Common symptoms of bleach poisoning in dogs include:

  • Coughing
  • Stomach pain
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Sore throat
  • Lethargy
  • Drooling
  • Burns around their mouth/nose
  • Low blood pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Paw discoloration (if they touched the bleach)
  • Nausea
  • Tremors
  • Ulceration of the mouth/throat/paws
  • Seizures

At the veterinarian, the first thing they will want to do is to pump the stomach clean of the bleach through a medical procedure called gastric lavage.

It’s unlikely but possible that your veterinarian may decide to induce vomiting as an alternative. In that case, your dog will be given activated charcoal to prevent the toxins from entering the bloodstream before inducing vomiting.

Afterward, medications and treatments depend on the conditions of your dog and how severe the poisoning was. The skin rashes, ulcers, and gastrointestinal issues will be taken care of and if needed, supportive therapy for other symptoms will be provided.

In some cases, your dog may need to be hospitalized for a few days. A case of bleach poisoning can cost anywhere from 500 to 6000$ in medical expenses, so be careful when using these products around your dog.

How to prevent your dog from drinking bleach again. 

Bleach is not only dangerous for your pets, but for you and your kids as well. It is one of those products that should be handled with the utmost care and kept locked away when not in use.

The best thing would be to use bleach as rarely as possible and look for alternative cleaning products. When you buy a new product for your house, make sure to read the table of components to ensure it doesn’t contain bleach.

When cleaning, lock your dog in another room or outside, but make sure he’s supervised in case accidents happen. Do not let them into the room until the bleach is completely dry and the fumes are gone.

You can also give them some chew toys to keep them busy while you clean. It’s important you don’t leave the room when you’re using these products because your moment of absence could allow your dog to get into harm’s way.

Design a room to store all of your cleaning products, and make sure your pets and kids do not have access to it. If you can’t, lock the products in a cupboard that can’t be opened easily, or in the garage.

It can be useful to think of your dog like a baby because, in the end, this is what they are. When dealing with anything that could be potentially dangerous, take the same precautions you would take with a small child that doesn’t understand what’s good or bad for them.