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Help, my dog ate deodorant! If you've ever been in this worrisome situation, you might be wondering how serious a problem it is as well as what the harmful ingredients in deodorant are?
Most dogs do sample non-food items from time to time. The technical term for this compulsion is pica (pronounced pie-cuh). While some objects pass uneventfully, in other instances, the ingestion of non-food items can result in an emergency exploratory surgery and an overnight veterinary hospital stay. So, what do you do if your dog eats deodorant? First, let's investigate the harmful ingredients in deodorant.
Harmful Ingredients in Deodorant
If you peek at the back of a deodorant stick, you may be alarmed by just how many chemicals and unfamiliar ingredients may be inside. Triclosan, for example, is an antibacterial chemical used in deodorants to kill odor-causing germs on the skin. Phthalates, which have taken a lot of heat lately in the health-conscious community, are common ingredients in all personal care products, including deodorants and antiperspirants. Parabens are present as well, but they're used primarily as preservatives. Triclosan, phthalates and parabens do not cause harm when ingested in small quantities, but there are two ingredients in deodorants and antiperspirants that can cause harm:
- Aluminum: This ingredient tends to be found in antiperspirants or deodorant/antiperspirant combination products. It is best known for plugging sweat ducts to stop sweating. Chronic use of aluminum in human products is under investigation for possible health risks, but ingesting aluminum from eating an antiperspirant stick is relatively non-toxic to dogs beyond causing mild gastrointestinal issues.
- Xylitol: The most harmful ingredient your pooch may be exposed to is actually found most often in natural deodorants. Xylitol can be used as a prebiotic to help maintain a favorable community of microflora on the skin. According to the FDA, xylitol is very toxic to dogs. If your deodorant contains xylitol and your pup ingests it, consider it an emergency and seek veterinary care immediately. Xylitol is also a common ingredient in many foods as it is a sugar substitute, which is another reason to avoid feeding your dog foods not made for them.
Signs that My Dog Ate Deodorant
In the case of your dog eating deodorant, there is a risk of intestinal obstruction. Clinical signs that could indicate a gastrointestinal blockage include:
- Constipation or straining to defecate
- Loss of appetite
- Assuming the "downward dog" position with front end lowered and rear end remaining elevated
If your dog passes bloody stool or shows signs of abdominal pain, seek veterinary care promptly. While the chances of this happening are low, as deodorant will typically pass through with minimal effects, if you have doubts, call your veterinarian.
What to Do if Your Dog Eats Deodorant
If you find your dog has eaten a deodorant stick, take a deep breath and rest assured that unless the deodorant contains xylitol, it is most likely non-toxic to dogs. However, it can still cause gastrointestinal problems, like vomiting or diarrhea, over the next 24 hours because it is a foreign object, call your vet if you have questions.
If your dog does experience diarrhea or vomiting in the 24 hours following the ingestion of a deodorant stick, here are some steps to take at home. If at any time you are worried, contact your veterinarian:
- Withhold all food, including treats (but not water), for a minimum of 12 hours. This time period gives inflamed and irritated intestines a chance to calm and heal.
- During that time, they may have clear fluids as long as the vomiting or diarrhea don't continue. Water is fine, along with low-salt chicken broth diluted 50:50 with water.
- After 12 hours, you can introduce your dog to a bland diet. Options typically recommended by vets include plain cooked white rice and boiled chicken or special foods available from your veterinarian. Remove as much fat as possible from the chicken and offer it in small, frequent meals, beginning with a teaspoon-sized portion to make sure it stays down without trouble. Be sure to speak with your veterinarian of your dog's particular case before feeding.
- Increase the amount and frequency of feeding if your dog continues to do well on the bland food.
- After a day of stomach pampering on a gentle diet, feed your pup regular-sized meals with 25% regular food and 75% chicken and rice or the vet recommended food, then increase the proportion of regular food over the course of two days until your dog has returned to normal.
If you see no changes to your dog, pay a visit to your vet immediately.
My Dog Ate Deodorant, but Why?
According to Merck Veterinary Manual, the first step a vet takes in evaluating a dog for pica is to consider the substance that was eaten and the surrounding circumstances. Some items may be eaten if the dog is deficient in a certain nutrient or has some stomach upset. Because there can be a medical reason for your dog's unusual meal of choice, your vet may first want to run some basic bloodwork to make sure your dog is otherwise healthy.
If your vet determines that your pup is healthy, then pica is considered behavioral. Puppies explore the world with their mouth, and this behavior never fully goes away. A common behavioral reason dogs ingest non-food objects is simple boredom. If you're gone for the day, your pup may self-entertain by chewing on a smelly sock and end up eating it in the process.
Eating a stick of deodorant is more common among dogs than you might think. Not only does the deodorant have a novel fragrance, but you rub it under your arms daily; therefore, for your pup, it smells like their favorite person in the world. It is best to keep substances like deodorants and antiperspirants in closed cupboards and away from your curious pup!
Dr. Laci Schaible
Dr. Laci Schaible is a small animal veterinarian, entrepreneur, author, and speaker. A graduate of Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Wake Forest University School of Law, Dr. Schaible is passionate about progressive change in the veterinary industry and serves as an advisor on a number of boards within the field.