Brushing your dog’s teeth is essential for their dental health. For this, there are many kinds of toothpaste made specifically for dogs. While these products are safe for your pet, the toothpaste you use is not.
Human toothpaste has many ingredients that are harmful to dogs, which is why you should never use it to brush their teeth.
So, what happens when your dog eats human toothpaste? Should you be worried? This article will cover everything you need to know about what to do when this happens to your pet. Read on to learn how to care for your dog if they eat toothpaste.
Is Toothpaste Harmful to Dogs?
Yes, toothpaste is harmful to dogs and can be fatal. If your dog eats some, it’s advisable to seek medical attention immediately, especially if they’ve ingested a huge amount.
Some of the ingredients that make toothpaste harmful to your canine include xylitol, fluoride, and sodium lauryl sulfate. But their level of toxicity will depend on the amount ingested and the size of your dog. These ingredients have distinct effects on canines, so I’ll cover each separately.
Xylitol is the toothpaste ingredient that’s most dangerous to dogs. It’s a natural sweetener used in toothpaste, chewing gum, and many sugar-free snacks.
This sugar alcohol is not harmful to humans even when ingested in amounts of up to 130g per day. But if your dog ingests more than 0.1g/kg of body weight, they’ll be in trouble.
When your dog eats xylitol, it’s quickly absorbed in the body. The dog’s body registers a massive intake of sugar, which prompts the pancreas to release a lot of insulin to regulate the blood sugar level. With more insulin in the system, your dog’s blood sugar level falls drastically within a short period, setting them up for liver failure.
The xylitol first causes liver cell death, leading to tissue damage and liver failure. If not attended to promptly, your dog is at a high risk of getting into a coma and dying.
Symptoms of Xylitol Toxicity
If the amount of xylitol your pet has ingested is reasonable, they’ll likely show the following symptoms:
The low blood sugar level causes these reactions in the body and subsequent damage of liver cells. However, note that some dogs don’t show any symptoms until their livers have been severely damaged.
Therefore, it’s crucial to determine how much toothpaste your canine has eaten to seek medical attention as soon as necessary, even when they’re not showing any symptoms.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is used in toothpaste to create foam—as it does in soaps too. Even for humans, SLS is a known toxic chemical, so it’s not advisable to swallow toothpaste. You’ll not find SLS in dog toothpaste because it’s also toxic to them, and pets cannot spit out toothpaste as we do.
After your dog eats toothpaste, the sodium lauryl sulfate in it will likely cause gastrointestinal upset. It then remains in the system for several days, during which time it causes damage to the brain, liver, and heart.
Hence, it’s crucial to have a veterinarian check your pet for SLS poisoning, even if you don’t think it has affected them severely.
Fluoride is used in toothpaste to strengthen teeth and prevent decay. Your dog will have to consume about 5mg of fluoride per kg of body weight to experience fatal toxicity.
But, even a tiny amount of about 1mg per kg is enough to cause symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting. Other symptoms associated with dogs ingesting fluoride are:
- Excessive sweating
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid pulse
- Loss of appetite
If left untreated, fluoride toxicity can lead to organ failure, affecting the kidneys, liver, and lungs. It’s imperative to take your dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible after they’ve ingested fluoride.
Treatment for Your Dog After Eating Toothpaste
Your veterinarian will treat your pet according to the type of toxicity they’re suffering. First, the vet will run tests to check their blood profile to identify the poison in their blood. They’ll also check their blood sugar levels.
The veterinarian might induce vomiting depending on when your dog ate the toothpaste and how much of it. This is usually a good option if it’s been about less than 4 hours since your dog ingested the toxic substance.
If your pet is already experiencing liver failure, it might be too late for the vomiting to help, so always seek help as fast as possible.
After vomiting, your dog will be hospitalized to receive intravenous therapy. For severe poisoning cases involving xylitol, your pet may have to remain hospitalized for about 72 hours, during which the vet will closely monitor their blood sugar levels and liver condition.
For toxicity caused by fluoride or other toxins in toothpaste with a slower absorption rate, the veterinarian may feed your dog activated carbon which absorbs the poison in the stomach. This vastly reduces the risk of severe complications.
What if You Can’t Reach a Veterinarian?
If you’re unable to reach a veterinarian, call the pet poison helpline. After giving details about the circumstances of your dog’s poisoning, you’ll receive expert advice on how to proceed.
One home remedy for emergencies is feeding them hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting. You can receive instructions from your veterinarian about the correct amount to use depending on your dog’s size.
After successful vomiting, refrain from feeding your dog for the next 12 hours and give them a lot of clear fluids instead. This is to avoid stressing out their gut which has already been upset by the poison.
Avoiding Further Toothpaste Accidents
The best way to keep your dog from eating toothpaste is by storing it in enclosed spaces they cannot reach. If you leave it in the open in an easily reachable place, they’re likely to come sniffing—toothpaste smells and tastes sweet, and that’ll draw them.
Also, if you want to brush your dog’s teeth, get toothpaste specially made for them to avoid unfortunate accidents. If your dog eats toothpaste and you’re unsure how much, don’t wait to see any symptoms as it may be too late by the time they appear. Play safe and seek a veterinarian’s advice as soon as possible.