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Yikes! My Dog Just Ate a Candle! What Should I Do Now?

Dogs are notorious for eating things they shouldn't, so it's probably no surprise that our canine companions will sometimes run off with a candle. Veterinarian Joanna Woodnutt looks at when to be concerned, and what steps to take next.

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Last Updated: May 3, 2021 | 7 min read

Dog Ate Candle

This article was written by a veterinarian, but it should not substitute as contact with a trained professional. If your dog ate a candle and is reacting adversely, contact your local veterinarian immediately.

It’s the scenario every pet parent dreads – your beloved furry friend has managed to eat something they shouldn’t have. But this time it’s one of your candles! So, the question is, what should you do if your dog eats a candle? And are candles bad for dogs?

There are many different things that a dog owner needs to consider when this happens. Candles can, in fact, be potentially dangerous. Some artificial ingredients can be toxic, but so can many of the food items that candles are attached to!

If your dog’s eaten a candle and you are concerned, there are some steps you can take to help limit negative health impacts to your pup. In this guide, we look at what you need to do, and when to worry. Let’s dig in!

Is it Bad if My Dog Ate a Candle?

Dog Licking Birthday Cake
There are some elements to consider when determining how dangerous consuming a candle is for our canine companions.

Candles can potentially be dangerous for dogs, but it depends on several factors. Paraffin, soy, and wax are not toxic to dogs. Ingredients such as dyes and scents may be toxic, and the wick and tea light holder can sometimes cause blockages and other gut damage.

The good news is that with the right treatment, there is every chance that your dog will recover from eating a candle without any long-term effects. Exactly how serious it is, and what treatment they will need will depend on many factors. Next, we will examine that in detail.

My Dog Ate a Candle. What Should I Do?

Lots of Lit Candles
It is best to phone your veterinarian immediately for further instructions if your dog eats a candle.

If your pup just ate a candle, there are several steps to take. There are also some things to look for, that are different if Fido consumed a different foreign body outside of a candle. Let’s take a look at the steps you should follow.

Step 1: Remove The Candle

As soon as you find your dog eating a candle, remove any further candle parts from the area to ensure no more can be ingested. You may need to secure your pet in a room where they can’t get out of while you clean up.

Step 2: Check For Wax

If it is safe to do so, remove any wax from your dog’s mouth. If the candle was lit, then you should also check his mouth for burns – but bear in mind he might be uncomfortable and more likely to bite.

Step 3: Find The Packaging

See if you can find the packaging of the candle, as this will likely have ingredients on it, which will be helpful for the vet. This is not essential, but useful.

Step 4: Call Your Veterinarian

Call your nearest open veterinary clinic and explain the problem. Be prepared to describe to your vet how big the candle was, what type of wick it has, whether there are any metal, plastic, glass, or other solid parts, how much of it was has eaten, and what size your pup is.

Step 5: Follow Your Veterinarian’s Advice

Follow your veterinarian’s advice about what to do next. Depending on the situation, they may advise for you to bring come into the clinic right away, or they may advise a more cautious “watching and waiting” approach to see if Fido passes the candle in his feces, or if he becomes sick, at which point he will need to go to the veterinary clinic.

Are Candles Bad for Dogs?

Border Collie Laying on a Couch
There are a few candle features that can be bad for dogs if consumed.

It’s best to avoid candle ingestion wherever possible. But, if you have come home to find them having a snack, how worried should you be?

Are Candles Toxic?

Most candle wax is made of either paraffin, soy, or beeswax, which are all non-toxic materials. However, there will likely be other ingredients in your candle. These could be the dyes that give a candle its color and scenting agents which may include essential oils. Some of these ingredients can be toxic. So, it’s always best to check with your vet and have the ingredients to hand if possible.

Bowel Obstruction From Candles

The greatest danger from eating a candle is developing an obstruction in the guts from part of the candle getting stuck in the intestinal tract. This is particularly something to consider if a candle has any metal or plastic parts (like a tea light holder).

The body of the candle itself is unlikely to cause a problem, as candle wax by its nature softens when it gets warm. However, small dogs may be more likely to get a blockage from eating a candle, as their intestines are smaller and narrower than those of bigger dogs.

The risk of blockage also depends on the size of the chunk of candle wax that was eaten. Luckily, most dogs won’t eat large chunks of candle whole, so it’s unlikely that pieces large enough to get stuck will have been swallowed.

However, metal parts of the candle can pose a definite danger, as these are inflexible and more likely to cause an obstruction. They can also have sharp edges which can damage the guts when passing through.

Perforation From the Wick

The candle wick can also be an issue. Most candles have the string-type wick, which is unlikely to be dangerous unless it’s a very long wick. However, some modern candles have wooden wicks, which are potentially much more dangerous. A wooden stick in the stomach or guts can cause an obstruction or puncture of the guts, known as a ‘perforation’. Let your vet know what type of wick your candle had when you call them.

Constipation

It is also possible that candle wax could pass almost all the way through, but then bind together with normal feces in the rectum, causing Fido to become constipated. If you notice your pup having trouble going to the toilet, please let your vet know as they may need some help to poop!

Foods Attached to Candles

A dog eating a scented candle is different than a candle from a birthday cake. If your candle was attached to a chocolate cake that contains real chocolate, or a cake that’s been made with artificial ingredients, you will need to inform your veterinarian of this fact right away.

Certain artificial sweeteners like xylitol are extremely toxic to dogs, as is chocolate. Also, some cakes may include nuts like macadamia nuts, which are also toxic. So in this case, the candle isn’t the toxic item, but what’s attached to it might be.

What Happens if a Dog Eats a Candle?

Dog Waiting on a Vet Table
Typically, the vet will ask you to wait and observe for symptoms, but there are times when more drastic measures will be taken.

Induced Vomiting

If you witness your canine companion eating the candle and manage to get him to the vet within the first hour or so, it is likely that your vet will give him an injection to make him vomit. The aim of this is for him to bring up what he has eaten so that it doesn’t get into his intestines where an obstruction is more likely.

Inducing vomiting will also mean that any possible toxins (such as coloring or scents) are less likely to be absorbed. If Fido does vomit up most of what he has eaten, it is most likely that he will then go home with no further treatment needed.

However, you should never make your pup vomit at home unless your veterinarian asks you to. The candle wax may get stuck as it’s vomited up, blocking the esophagus (gullet/food pipe), which is extremely dangerous. It’s also possible for them to accidentally inhale while vomiting, causing aspiration pneumonia. Your vet will be able to weigh up the risks of making them sick with the risks of leaving the candle wax where it is and make the best decision for their health.

X-rays and Observations

If it has been more than a couple of hours since the candle was ingested, then it may be too late to make him vomit. If you know or suspect that your dog ate metal parts, then the vet may decide to take an x-ray to see where in the guts the metal is, and if it looks like it is likely to cause an obstruction.

One thing to consider is candle size. If the candle is fairly small and doesn’t have a solid wick or any metal parts, then your vet may choose to simply observe for any signs of obstruction (vomiting, abdominal pain, and constipation).

While this may happen in the hospital, your vet may also ask you to take your pet home and watch them there. Make sure you follow any instructions your vet gives you at home. Call them if your dog develops any concerning symptoms.

Bowel Obstruction Surgery

Signs of sickness, which include vomiting or abdominal pain, may be signs of a bowel obstruction. If your vet has reason to suspect an intestinal obstruction, your dog may need surgery. If intestinal blockages are diagnosed quickly, and surgery happens promptly, then the prognosis is usually very good.

This procedure usually requires a hospital stay for a couple of days after the operation. From there, it will mean 1-2 weeks of rest and recuperation at home. Obstructions that are not treated promptly are more serious and will require a more difficult operation, more recovery time, and most cost!

Will My Dog be OK?

Candles and Towels on a Table Surface
Contact your vet as soon as possible for the best outcome for your pooch if he swallowed a candle.

In all likelihood, yes! But your dog has the best chance if you get him veterinary help as quickly as possible. If he is seen by a vet within an hour or two of eating the candle, then he can most likely be treated by simply making him vomit it up again.

If you don’t discover what he has done for a few hours or more, then the intervention needed can vary. This could just include monitoring him until the candle passes to surgery if it causes a blockage in his guts. But as long as you contact your vet as soon as possible and follow their instructions, then he has the best possible chance.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can candle wax kill dogs? 

    Candle wax in itself is not usually toxic, but veterinary intervention should be sought in case of intestinal obstruction or burns (if the wax was hot at the time it was eaten).

  • What wax melts are safe for dogs? 

    All wax melts should be kept out of reach of dogs, and they shouldn’t be allowed to eat them. However, some essential oils can be toxic when warmed in a wax melt, so you should avoid toxic essential oils.

  • Are scented candles toxic to dogs? 

    Some chemicals used in scented candles could be toxic to dogs, so if you are concerned you should contact your veterinarian. Have the list of ingredients in the candle available to discuss with them. They may ask you to call the Pet Poison Helpline for more information.

  • My dog ate a whole tea light candle, what do I do? 

    Contact your veterinarian straight away. If this has just happened, your veterinarian may be able to make your pup vomit and bring up the metal tea light holder, which is the most dangerous bit. If it has happened a few hours ago or more then Fido will probably need abdominal x-rays, and potentially surgery.

  • Are Yankee Candles pet-friendly? 

    All candles should be kept out of reach of dogs. Yankee Candles make a huge variety of different scents, so it’s best to check each one with your vet. You should also be aware that Yankee candles come in glass jars – while your pet is less likely to burn themselves on the flame, the glass can shatter if dropped or knocked, and this can be dangerous too.

  • My dog ate a birthday candle. Will he be ok?

    If your dog helped himself to the candles on the cake as well as the cake, you might be wondering if he will be ok. The good news is that these candles are very small, so unless you have a very tiny dog, or they ate more than one candle, he should be fine. It’s still best to call your local vet for their advice, as they know your dog best. Don’t forget to tell your vet the cake ingredients too, in case they are toxic!

Preventing Candle Ingestion

The best policy is to keep all candles in a cupboard or on a high shelf until you want to light them, and then stay in the room when the candle is alight.

If you need to leave your dog alone for a while and are unable to keep absolutely everything out of their reach, then it is a good idea to provide your canine companion with something to occupy his mind. Dogs are very intelligent and can get bored easily, which is when they make their entertainment by finding something to eat! You can get puzzle toys or treat balls, which slowly release food when rolled, nudged, nosed, and pawed.

If your pet has taken a liking to lots of different non-food items, it’s a good idea to talk to your vet. Some hormonal and gastrointestinal disorders can cause pica, the eating of non-food items.

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