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My Dog Just Ate Play Doh! Is Play Doh Toxic or Harmful To Dogs?

If your dog just ate some of your kiddo's Play-Doh, you definitely aren't alone! Play-Doh is a common toy that many families have around the home. Due to the smell and texture, it's something that can easily be mistaken for food. In this article, veterinarian Joanna Woodnutt examines if Play-Doh is harmful for dogs, and you should do next.

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Last Updated: July 29, 2021 | 8 min read

Dog Ate Play-Doh

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

Play-Doh has been a hugely popular children’s toy since the 1950s and is found in many households across the country. Naturally, this brings it into contact with our pets, especially if the children are a little messy! If you have children, you know it’s not long before Play-Doh ends up on your floor.

The qualities of Play-Doh that make it exciting for our kids, such as the bright colors and the textures, are the exact same features that make it so interesting for dogs. Many dogs also happen to love the way it smells, which can cause them to hover around your child, anytime Play-Doh is present.

Dogs often explore the world and new objects with their nose and mouth, so it is not uncommon for dogs to eat Play-Doh. In this article, we will explore what can happen if your dog manages to eat some of this squishy substance, and what you can expect if they do. Let’s jump in!

What is Play-Doh?

Tubs of Craft Dough
Play-Doh is a mixture children play with that’s made of water, flour, and salt.

Play-Doh is mostly a mixture of water, salt, and flour. Some products may have fragrances, preservatives, oils, petroleum products (for texture), colorings, and anti-microbial elements.

It is usually bought from a commercial supplier, but it is possible to make play-doh at home, using the ingredients above. Some people add cream of tartar to homemade play-doh as a preservative. Cream of tartar is a by-product of grape fermentation.

Is it Bad if My Dog Ate Play-Doh?

Colorful Craft Dough
Due to the high salt content and potential for toxic cream of tartar, Play-Doh is not good for canine consumption.

The answer to this question depends greatly on the ingredients in the Play-Doh. In the majority of cases, a small amount of Play-Doh is unlikely to cause a problem, as the main ingredients (water, salt, and flour) are fairly low risk in themselves.

Most dogs will not have any ill effects from eating Play-Doh. That said, some ingredients in Play-Doh can be toxic to dogs, especially if eaten in large enough quantities.

Salt

Play-Doh does contain quite a lot of salt. This means large quantities can produce salt poisoning in dogs. Excess salt raises the concentration of the blood. This can have serious negative consequences for organ function and brain function. The blood chemistry is kept in a tightly controlled and fine balance. This means a large influx of salt can really disrupt this equilibrium.

Cream of Tartar

Cream of tartar, usually found in homemade play-doh, can also be toxic to dogs. Grapes, raisins, and similar products are all known to be toxic to dogs, and their by-products can be too. They all cause kidney failure in some, but not all dogs. The exact reason for toxicity is still not fully known, and different dogs are affected very differently.

A recent study suggests the actual poison is a chemical called potassium tartrate (which grapes contain varying levels of) and this chemical is also found in cream of tartar. We don’t know for certain yet that it is just the potassium tartrate that is toxic. To make matters worse, the exact toxic dose is not yet known for certain either. It’s generally simplest just to assume that any amount of tartrate is dangerous.

Other ingredients in specific Play-Dohs may also be toxic, so if you are unsure then it is always best to contact your local veterinary clinic at the earliest opportunity for advice.

My Dog Ate Play-Doh – What Should I Do?

Blue Pitbull With Sad Face
Contacting your local vet with information on how much Play-Doh your pup ingested is advised.

If your dog just got their paws, or mouth on some Play-Doh, there are several steps you can take to make sure there’s minimal impact. Let’s take a look at a step-by-step outline of what you’ll likely need to do next.

Step 1: Separate your dog from the substance

If you can, get your pup to a separate safe space so you can clean up and remove the Play-Doh. Remove any from your dog’s mouth if it is safe to do so. This will stop the problem from getting any worse.

Step 2: Identify how much was recently consumed

It is worth working out how much has been eaten and save any containers with ingredient lists on them for later inspection. If it is homemade, make a note of the recipe and ingredients. It is also worth making a note of the likely time that the Play-Doh was consumed.

Step 3: Contact your local veterinary clinic for advice

Based on the information you have gathered; they will assess potential risks with you and help you come up with a plan moving forward. Treatment will have a wide range of options. Your vet will make the determination on the best treatment plan for your pup.

Step 4: Follow your veterinarian’s advice

They may recommend an examination at the clinic or advise you to monitor your canine companion closely at home. Make sure to follow your vet’s instructions, and contact your vet if you notice symptoms growing worse.

What Happens If My Dog Ate Play-Doh?

As before, most dogs that eat Play-Doh will show no ill effects at all and need no treatment or intervention. However, if a large amount of Play-Doh was consumed, or if the Play-Doh contains a potentially toxic ingredient, then urgent professional veterinary help is required.

It is worth noting too that if your pup has pre-existing health conditions, such as pancreatitis or a sensitive tummy, then these may put him at greater risk after eating Play-Doh.

Risk of Salt Poisoning

Gray Dog Lying on the Floor of Vet Clinic
Too much salt from consuming large amounts of Play-Doh could be fatal to your pup.

If a dog eats a large quantity of Play-Doh, this will introduce a significant amount of salt into their system. If this salt is excessive, relative to their body weight, it will be absorbed into the bloodstream and cause changes in the blood chemistry. In general, 2-3 grams of salt per kilo of body weight can cause poisoning.

The symptoms of salt poisoning include restlessness, extreme thirst, lethargy, vomiting, and shaking. These can progress to a wide variety of severe symptoms as the high salt causes the blood to thicken, organs to fail, and the brain to be damaged. Seizures and death can follow rapidly.

Risk of Kidney Failure

Vet Checking Dog With Stethoscope
Common ingredients in homemade Play-doh can cause kidney failure.

If a dog eats a product containing cream of tartar (or other grape-related product), then this causes damage to the kidneys. Consumption of these toxins can send dogs rapidly into kidney failure. The dose is not accurately known for this type of poisoning and dogs can all react differently. This means it’s best to assume any amount can be dangerous.

Kidney failure can cause excessive drinking and urination, as well as vomiting and lethargy. In extreme cases, excessive urination may rapidly become zero urination as the kidneys completely fail and stop being able to produce urine at all. Again, seizures and death may follow rapidly.

Vomiting, Diarrhea, and Tummy Pain

Vizsla Dog Curled Up on a Couch
An upset tummy can occur with the consumption of Play-Doh.

If your dog has pre-existing health conditions, especially a sensitive tummy or a history of pancreatitis, then Play-Doh may be enough to upset these and make him sick. The symptoms would likely be vomiting, diarrhea, and tummy pain.

If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to make sure your veterinarian is aware. This will help them understand the severity of the situation. It will also help them determine if there may be something else going on.

Possible Treatments

Spotted Dog at the Vet
Your vet may ask you to bring in your dog to induce vomiting if it ate some Play-Doh.

These potential issues are usually managed in a similar way. If your dog has only just swallowed the Play-Doh (within the last four hours), then it may be possible for him to receive a very safe, effective injection to cause intense vomiting and bring the Play-Doh back up before any potential poisons are absorbed.

Vomiting should only be induced by a veterinarian in a safe environment – there are lots of home remedies but these are usually risky and may make things worse! If the Play-Doh can be brought back up, this is the simplest resolution to the problem.

If your dog has had time to absorb the poisons or is already showing symptoms of ill health, then your veterinarian will recommend more intensive treatment. This will provide your pup the best chance of a speedy recovery. The veterinarian will perform an examination and usually recommend a blood test to look at the salt content of the blood, and the current health of the kidneys.

Based on the results, your pup will usually need intravenous fluids from a drip in order to dilute the poisons (especially salt) and encourage fluid movement through the kidneys to keep them functioning.

Dogs may need this fluid therapy for 1-3 days or so depending on how severely affected they are. Other supportive care may also be used, such as pain relief and anti-nausea medications.

Will My Dog Be OK After Eating Play-Doh?

Large Dog Looking Up From Underneath a Table
Typically, most dogs are OK after eating a little bit of Play-Doh.

In the vast majority of cases, your dog will have no problems at all after eating a small amount of Play-Doh. However, the risks come along if a large amount of salt or other potentially toxic ingredients such as cream of tartar in homemade play-dohs have been consumed.

In order to give your dog the best chance of a good outcome, it is vital to make early contact with your local veterinary clinic to get the best professional advice as soon as possible. If you notice milder symptoms, such as mild salt poisoning or a mild tummy upset, then most of these cases will make a complete recovery with a little hospital care.

More severe illness or poisoning carries a worse prognosis – the outcome is highly variable depending on factors like the previous health of your pup and the amount of poison absorbed. Raisin and grape poisoning, including poisoning from the cream of tartar, is also much more variable in the outcome.

These toxins can be very nasty and can cause severe kidney damage. Even if your canine companion survives the initial kidney insult, there may be long-term implications and the kidneys may never recover to their full extent. Again, the most important thing you can do for your dog is to get in touch with your veterinary clinic as soon as you can and follow their advice.

Play-Doh Ingestion Prevention

Colorful Lids of Craft Dough
Separate your pup from the Play-Doh as best you can, and store it out of reach.

It is worth trying to keep your dog away from any children’s play areas as much as possible. Keeping these areas as tidy as possible is also helpful. It is worthwhile teaching children not to offer or feed Play-Doh to dogs, as this can be a factor too.

When you buy Play-Doh, check for any potentially toxic ingredients, and only open a small amount at a time. This will limit the potential danger to your canine companion.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is homemade play-doh toxic to dogs? 

    Homemade play-doh often still contains significant quantities of salt and may also contain home-remedy preservatives like cream of tartar, all of which can be poisonous to our dogs. Cream of tartar, for example, has toxic effects on the kidneys.

  • Is salt-dough toxic to dogs? 

    Salt-dough and Play-Doh are largely interchangeable – both are usually very safe but if eaten in large quantities, then the high proportion of salt can be dangerous for both children and dogs.

    Salt has a large effect on the blood chemistry and the concentration of the blood, and may seriously affect organ function and brain function. Salt-doughs may also still contain toxic preservatives or other chemicals added to the main ingredients.

  • Can Play-Doh kill my dog?

    Unfortunately, Play-Doh can be lethal to dogs if enough of a specific toxic ingredient is eaten with it. These would especially include large amounts of salt, and cream of tartar in homemade Play-Dohs. It is always worth contacting your local veterinary clinic for advice if you are unsure.

Final Thoughts

Play-Doh is a hugely popular toy in many households. In general, it’s extremely safe for our children and our dogs. However, Play-Dohs do contain a lot of salt, which can have bad effects on blood chemistry if swallowed.

Some Play-Dohs, especially homemade ones, may also contain specific toxic ingredients like cream of tartar. This substance can be seriously dangerous for our dogs through its effects on the kidneys. If you are in any doubt as to whether your dog has eaten something poisonous, it is vital to make contact with your local veterinary clinic as soon as possible.

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