What Is Silica Gel?
Silica gel is in those little packets you find added to your purchases of everything ranging from new shoes to electronics to beef jerky. Because they are invariably labeled DO NOT EAT, it only makes sense to be concerned if your dog ate silica gel.
Silica gel is a desiccant, which means that it can suck up a lot of water in the air (humidity) through a process called adsorption. Water essentially fills in the tiny pores surrounding the molecules that make up silica gel. It’s possible for silica gel to take in water equal to 40% of its weight.
The good news is that it would be very unusual for a dog to develop health problems after eating one packet, or even several.
- Dogs who have eaten silica gel have an excellent prognosis.
- Most will never become sick, and even if they do, their symptoms should quickly resolve with the right treatment.
- If symptoms develop, a dog may experience vomiting, diarrhea, and a loss of appetite.
Is Silica Gel Toxic to Dogs?
Most silica gel packets aren’t very dangerous for dogs for three main reasons:
Silica gel is nontoxic. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration classifies silicon dioxide (the molecule that makes up silica gel) as GRAS (generally recognized as safe), and it can be included in products meant to be eaten, usually as an anticaking agent.
When silica gel beads are “full” of water, they don’t increase in size or stick together. Unlike some other materials, they won’t swell in your dog’s stomach.
Because air needs to flow through the silica gel for it to take in humidity, the packet that holds the beads needs to be permeable (allow air through). It’s usually made up of a thin material that will easily pass through or break down in a dog’s digestive system.
When a dog eats a silica gel packet, the most likely outcome is that the silica gel beads, and the packet, will make their way through the digestive tract without the dog developing any symptoms at all.
How Much Silica Gel Is Toxic to a Dog?
One of the basic truths of toxicology is that the dose makes the poison. In other words, being exposed to a tiny amount of something generally thought to be dangerous may be perfectly safe (like the levels of arsenic present in apple seeds).
On the other hand, eating or drinking very large amounts of something that is usually safe can cause health problems.
What is a lot of silica gel? That’s hard to say and is complicated by things like the size of your dog and whether they have any underlying health problems.
It’s highly unlikely that one packet would cause problems in any dog, but the risks would increase if your pup has eaten a lot more or if you are dealing with a special situation like an extremely tiny pup or a dog who already has gastrointestinal problems.
Also, silica gel packets aren’t the only way that dogs can be exposed to silica gel. It can also be mixed with foods, other chemicals (moisture indicators, for example), and even cat litter that may be dangerous to dogs.
In these cases, the other things a dog eats will probably be more concerning than the silica gel itself.
Symptoms of Sicilia Gel Poisoning in Dogs
Most dogs who eat silica gel won’t develop any symptoms at all, but pet parents should be on the lookout for problems like:
A loss of appetite
What Should I Do if My Dog Ate Silica Gel?
If your dog ate a small amount of silica gel (one packet, for example), taking a wait-and-see approach makes sense. Simply watch your dog’s energy level, appetite, and overall demeanor, and be on the lookout for signs of an upset stomach.
If your dog seems fine after a day or two, you probably don’t have anything more to worry about.
If your dog does develop signs of illness or you have any concerns about their well-being, call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661) for advice.
Treatment of Silica Gel Poisoning in Dogs
Dogs who don’t develop signs of illness from eating silica gel don’t need any treatment. If the silica gel upsets your dog’s digestive system to the point where they start to vomit or have diarrhea, symptomatic treatment should help.
This may involve:
Fluid therapy if your dog is dehydrated
A bland, easy-to-digest diet
Prognosis of Silica Gel Toxicity in Dogs
Dogs who have eaten silica gel have an excellent prognosis. Most will never become sick, and even if they do, their symptoms should quickly resolve with the right treatment.
Prevention of Silica Gel Toxicity in Dogs
Even though silica gel is nontoxic and unlikely to cause health problems, you still should keep it away from your dog.
Immediately throw silica gel away in a trash can that is in a secure location, particularly packets that have been included with food.
Featured Image: Rhys Leonard/iStock / Getty Images Plus
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