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

If your dog just ate a dryer sheet while you had your back turned, you might be very concerned. Veterinarian Joanna Woodnutt examines what happens when a dog eats a dryer sheet, when to worry, and how quickly you need to contact your own local veterinarian.

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Last Updated: June 30, 2021 | 6 min read

Dog Getting In Laundry Basket

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

Dogs love to explore the world with their curious noses and mouths, especially young pups. So, they often find their way into things they shouldn’t! Most dogs love to curl up on a pile of our fresh laundry, and some have a habit of dragging certain items off in their mouths.

But could this laundry-raiding habit get your pup into trouble if they get their paws on a dryer sheet? Dryer sheets aren’t just made of paper. They contain other chemicals that may make you more nervous about the fact that one’s been eaten by your dog.

So, just how dangerous is it if Fido got his paws on a dryer sheet while you were doing the laundry? Let’s look at the potential risks of this for your pup, and what to do if it does happen to you and your pup.

Why Does My Dog Love Dryer Sheets?

Brown and White Dog In Dryer
If Fido is eating things that he shouldn’t be, it may be a sign of boredom or hunger.

Dogs love fabrics, and all of us pet parents have experienced items of clothing going mysteriously missing, only to turn up later in our pup’s beds! And dryer sheets are no exception. The strong smells they give off are designed to make our laundry smell nice are very enticing!

Dogs will often get their paws on household items if they are very young and exploring the world. They simply don’t yet understand the difference between their toys and your socks! However, it can also be a sign of boredom or hunger.

If dogs are left home alone for several hours, don’t get enough exercise or food, or don’t have enough toys of their own they will often chew items around your house. These habits may be damaging to your home, but they can also be damaging to your pet. And, dryer sheets can, unfortunately, be quite dangerous for your pup.

Dangers For Dogs

Hand Putting Dryer Sheet in Dryer
Dryer Sheets contain synthetic materials that can be very dangerous for dogs if ingested.

Although many dogs happily chew on or swallow parts of dryer sheets without any serious consequences, there are a couple of big dangers you need to be aware of.

Dryer sheets are made of synthetic materials, which isn’t digestable by our canine companions. They can also be quite large. This means that once they have been swallowed the sheets might get stuck in your dog’s gut. Obstructions in the gut can be serious and life-threatening if not treated quickly.

In many cases, swallowed items pass through your dog’s digestive tract just fine and might be passed in their poos within a couple of days. But if Fido has eaten something he shouldn’t, it’s always best to get him checked by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

The chemicals and detergents in dryer sheets are harmful to dogs in large quantities or with prolonged exposure. The most common chemicals they contain are benzalkonium chloride and cetrimonium bromide, which are known as cationic surfactants.

Cationic surfactants are poisonous to dogs, so if eaten could do some serious damage if not treated quickly. Damage and irritation from these chemicals can damage your pup’s stomach lining, skin, mucous membranes, skin, and eyes.

If your pup has only just eaten a dryer sheet, or simply had it in his mouth for a very short time, the likelihood is it won’t do any harm and he will be fine. However, you should be cautious, as serious health problems such as lung damage, central nervous system depression, and acute kidney failure can occur in severe cases.

My Dog Just Ate a Dryer Sheet: What Now?

Big Brown Dog With Head in Laundry Basket
Always stay calm if you suspect you dog has eaten something poisonous.

So, your dog ate a dryer sheet, what next?! If you think your pup got ahold of one and has eaten it, try to stay calm and follow these simple steps:

Step 1: Check For Signs of Ingestion

Check to make sure your pup has definitely eaten the dryer sheet and not hidden it anywhere. Then check how many or how much was eaten. This is information that your veterinarian will likely want or need.

Step 2: Don’t Induce Vomiting

Do not try to induce vomiting at home. This can be very dangerous as not only could the sheet get stuck on the way back up, but it could expose the esophagus and mouth to harmful chemicals all over again.

Step 3: Contact Your Local Vet

Contact your veterinarian and get your pup down to the clinic to be checked over. It can be helpful if you take the packaging the sheets were in with you so that the vet can check the ingredients. Knowing what toxic ingredients that were ingested can help to guide treatment.

Will They Make My Dog Sick?

Big Brown Dog Laying Under Chair
Signs of poisoning can vary depending on the size of your dog and his overall health.

Eating a dryer sheet could make your pup quite sick. Although many dogs are just fine, you need to monitor them closely for signs of problems. The symptoms of poisoning after consumption can vary and will depend on how much/how many your dog ate, and how long ago they ate it. It will also depend on the size of your pup, and any underlying health conditions they have.

Symptoms of Poisoning:

  • Vomiting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Loud breathing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Burns inside the mouth
  • Swollen tongue
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle weakness
  • Seizures
  • Collapse

Some of the harmful chemicals in dryer sheets can also cause irritation to the skin and pads, which can lead to pain, redness, swelling, ulcers, and burns. The eyes can also be affected in severe cases, causing irritation, swelling/redness of the eyes, and excessive tear production. Dryer sheets are very absorbent, so they will absorb moisture and liquid from your pup’s digestive system if eaten. This could lead to dehydration and excessive thirst.

If the dryer sheet gets stuck in your dog’s gut (causing gastrointestinal obstruction), this could be potentially serious and life-threatening, so it’s important to spot the signs early. Symptoms of gastrointestinal obstruction:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Lethargy
  • Appetite Loss
  • Weight Loss
  • Painful Stomach: yelping/growling when touched, sitting in a “prayer position”

If you notice any of these symptoms after your pup has eaten a dryer sheet you should contact your veterinarian straight away.

Treatment Options

Small Dog Laying On Vets Table
Always contact your veterinarian, if you think your dog has been exposed to any poisonous substance.

If your dog has eaten a dryer sheet, there are a few different ways of treating him. This will depend on how long ago he ate it, and what the symptoms are. You must not try to make your pup vomit at home. It’s always safest to let the veterinarian do this, in case it gets stuck on the way back up.

Make sure plenty of clean, fresh water is available at home to prevent dehydration. Mild symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea can usually be managed at home. They can be managed with a bland diet such as chicken/fish and rice. If symptoms persist then it’s best to speak to your vet.

Induced Vomiting

If the sheet was eaten very recently, your veterinarian will likely want to induce vomiting, so that he brings it back up again before the toxic chemicals are absorbed and before it progresses through the gut. There is a two-hour window after your dog has eaten any type of foreign body. During this time your pup will need to be made to vomit. This window of time exists because after two hours the stomach contents will pass through the small intestines.

If your pup has been made to vomit and brings up the dryer sheet, then great news! They can come home again but will need to be monitored for any signs that the poison has been absorbed. Sometimes the vet will prescribe charcoal to prevent this from happening.

Possible X-Ray and Surgery

If your canine companion is unlucky enough to be suffering from an obstruction, then the vet will want to take an x-ray of his tummy to see what’s going on inside. It’s likely that your pup will need surgery to remove the sheet, and then need to stay in at the clinic for supportive treatment and recovery.

Medications & Therapy

Unfortunately, when it comes to the poisonous chemicals in dryer sheets, there are no specific treatments or antidotes. Symptoms such as seizures and breathing difficulties can be managed with certain medications and supportive therapy.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can a dryer sheet kill a dog?

    Sadly, if left untreated, they can have fatal consequences for dogs. Obstructions in the gut as well as the poisonous chemicals in dryer sheets, called cationic surfactants, can be fatal if not treated quickly by a veterinarian.

  • Can dryer sheets cause seizures in dogs?

    Yes, seizures are one of the symptoms of poisoning after eating a dryer sheet and are caused by harmful chemicals called cationic surfactants. If your dog has seizures, or any other symptoms, after eating one, you should contact your veterinarian straight away.

  • How long will it take a dog to pass a dryer sheet?

    It should take around 48–72 hours for it to pass through a dog’s digestive system, providing it does not get stuck and cause an obstruction on the way. If your dog has eaten a dryer sheet and has not passed it after two days, then you should get your pet checked over by a veterinarian.

  • Is dryer lint poisonous to dogs?

    No, dryer lint is not poisonous to dogs. If your dog eats a small amount of dryer lint, he will be just fine, and it should pass through with no problems. However, if your pup is unwell after eating dryer lint, you should contact your veterinarian for advice.

Final Thoughts

The likelihood is that your pup will be just fine if he eats a dryer sheet! As long as you speak to your veterinarian for advice, and your pup is made to vomit promptly to bring the sheet back up again, the chances are he won’t develop any further problems. Many dogs also pass the dryer sheet out in the poop after a day or two with no problems at all.

However, if the sheet has caused an obstruction in the gut, or your pup suffers from any symptoms of poisoning from the harmful chemicals, he could become very sick and it could even be fatal. Getting seen quickly by a veterinarian will reduce the chances of this happening. With quick and effective treatment, the prognosis is good!

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