My Dog Ate A Battery! Help! What Should I Do? Let’s Take A Look At One Of The More Worrying Items For Your Dog To Get Hold Of. And What To Do When You Think He May Have Swallowed One.
Batteries power many things in our homes, from the remote control to hearing aids and even e-cigarettes. It is easy to forget that they are even there. We usually don’t think about batteries until they die—or are consumed by a beloved pet. If your dog ate a battery, you are right to be concerned.
Batteries contain substances that are toxic to dogs. Battery ingestion can lead to damage to your dog’s mouth, esophagus, stomach and intestines. In severe cases, this damage can be fatal. If you suspect your dog has eaten a battery, contact your veterinarian immediately. Once you’ve made that call, here is what you need to know about battery ingestion in dogs to keep your pet happy, healthy, and battery free.
My dog ate a battery
“Help! My dog ate a battery! What’s going to happen to him?” Batteries pose several threats to dogs.
As with any foreign body ingestion, batteries pose choking and obstruction risks. Unlike most foreign bodies, however, batteries contain toxic substances that can corrode your dog’s tissues, literally burning holes through their GI tract.
Many household batteries are alkaline. These batteries, like AA, AAA, and 9-volt, contain sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide. If a battery is punctured during the chewing process or breaks down in your dog’s stomach, these alkaline substances can come in contact with your dog’s internal tissues. Exposure to alkaline materials can cause a corrosive injury scientifically known as liquefaction necrosis.
Liquefaction necrosis dissolves proteins, destroys collagen, emulsifies cell membranes, and causes saponification of fats. This softens your dog’s tissues, allowing the toxins to penetrate deep into your dog’s body, causing lesions and in severe cases, perforation.
Perforations from battery consumption
A perforation, or hole, in any part of your dog’s GI tract is dangerous, whether it is the esophagus, stomach or intestines. Perforations can allow the contents of your dog’s GI organs to leak into their body cavity, causing additional damage and potentially life-threatening conditions. Lesions of the esophagus can add another threat: scar tissue. As your dog heals from the sores caused by the swallowed battery, the scar tissue can cause esophageal stricture, which is a narrowing of the esophagus. This, in turn, can lead to difficulty swallowing, choking, and in some cases, obstruction.
As if that isn’t bad enough, batteries also contain heavy metals, like zinc and lead. Batteries that remain in the stomach long enough can break down, releasing these heavy metals and leading to heavy metal poisoning. Alkaline substances, unlike acids, initially cause very little pain. Coming into contact with them may not deter your dog from eating more. Instead, you will have to be on the lookout for signs that your dog ate a battery, which we will go into later on.
Dogs eat many things they shouldn’t, but there are some phrases that alarm veterinarians more than others. “My dog swallowed a hearing aid battery” is one of them.
Standard alkaline batteries are dangerous. Button batteries, also called disc batteries, bring additional risks to the table. Button batteries are little round batteries that can be found in most of our electronic devices. Hearing aids, watches, calculators, toys, key fobs. Even greeting cards can contain button batteries! Making it easy for your dog to ingest them while she is busy chewing on something tasty.
Alkaline liquid can leak from button batteries, too. Especially if your dog punctures the battery before swallowing. But button batteries contain something even more dangerous: current induced necrosis.
Button batteries create an electrical current that can burn through any nearby tissue, even if the battery doesn’t leak. Their small size makes it easy for them to get lodged in the GI tract, where they can lead to burns, corrosive damage, necrosis, ulcers, and perforations.
Some button batteries, like lithium button batteries, can cause severe necrosis to surrounding tissues in as little as 15-30 minutes of contact. These perforations can cause life-threatening conditions. If you suspect your dog has eaten a battery, contact your veterinarian immediately.
My dog ate a battery…. I think!
But what should you do if you only suspect your dog has eaten a battery? Your dog might not show any symptoms of battery ingestion immediately. It can take a few hours for signs of exposure to alkaline materials to develop in your dog’s mouth or on his lips. And can take up to 12 hours for signs of ulceration to show.
The first warning sign of battery ingestions is a destroyed or partially destroyed electronic. If you come home to find the remote control chewed, for example, and can’t find the AA batteries that power it, you will need to keep a close eye on Fido and call your veterinarian. Sometimes, however, we don’t always know our dogs have eaten something. You may even be grateful when you can’t find that annoying singing greeting card—until you realize that your dog ate the card and the battery.
A punctured battery can lead to ulceration of the lips and mouth. If you notice sores anywhere in or around your dog’s mouth, it could be a result of a dog chewed battery ingestion. Even if it is not, the ulceration could be caused by another toxic substance, so it is a good idea to give your veterinarian a call anyway. But what if your dog doesn’t have any visible lesions or ulceration?
Drooling, bad breath, increased thirst, and a loss in appetite can all be signs of battery ingestion and corrosion. The irritation caused by the battery can also cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, especially if the battery leads to an obstruction. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian or nearby veterinary emergency hospital.
My dog ate a battery—what do I do?
It’s a nightmare scenario. You come home from work, hoping to relax on the couch with your dog, maybe catching your favorite TV show and eating some popcorn, only to find that your dog had the same idea—sort of. Instead of waiting for the popcorn, however, your dog decided to eat the remote instead, and the batteries are nowhere to be found.
Battery ingestion is a veterinary emergency, especially if your dog ate a button battery. The first thing you should do is call your veterinarian. Depending on the situation, your veterinarian may recommend bringing your dog in to the hospital or veterinary emergency hospital immediately. Once there, a veterinarian will examine your dog for any clinical signs of battery ingestions, like visible lesions or abdominal pain.
Next, your veterinarian may take radiographs. Since batteries have metal casings, they are relatively easy to spot on radiographs, which will help your veterinarian come up with an accurate diagnosis. Radiographs will also help your veterinarian pinpoint exactly where in your dog’s GI tract the battery is located and how many batteries were swallowed, which can help them determine the best course of treatment.
My dog ate a battery – is there any treatment?
Your dog ate a battery. Now what? What happens next will depend on several factors. These include the type of battery and how long ago the battery was ingested. Your vet will also consider where in your dog’s GI tract the battery is located.
Button batteries that are lodged in your dog’s esophagus will most likely need to be removed immediately through endoscopy or surgery. If the button batteries or other batteries have passed to your dog’s stomach, however, things are different. Your veterinarian may consider monitoring your dog carefully. Hopefully until the battery has passed through your dog’s intestinal tract and into their feces.
During this time, they will provide supportive care and medications to relieve any symptoms and prevent further damage. If battery ingestion is caught quickly, your veterinarian may give water or milk to help dilute the corrosive material your dog consumed. This is intended to help delay the lesions caused by button batteries.
Your doctor may also add additional fiber to your dog’s diet to help pass the battery safely through your dog’s GI tract. Some dogs may need fluid and nutritional support. Along with pain medication to alleviate the discomfort caused by corrosion and additional damage. Your veterinarian may also give your dog medications to protect their stomach lining, antibiotics to prevent secondary infections, and liquid food.
After the battery has been removed or successfully passed, your veterinarian may still want to continue monitoring your dog for another 24 hours to make sure there is no additional damage. During this time, your dog’s veterinary team will monitor your dog’s blood count, body temperature, and behavior, as well as continuing supportive care.
There is one thing your veterinarian will almost never do, however—make your dog throw up. Making your dog throw up a battery is a bad idea. If the battery was punctured, vomiting will re-expose your dog’s esophagus to the corrosive materials, causing additional damage. Vomiting could also give button batteries another opportunity to perforate your dog’s esophagus, and there is always the risk of obstruction.
My dog chewed a battery—will he be okay?
Batteries are common household objects. This means the odds of your dog ingesting one in his lifetime are relatively high, which is why you need to know what to do about it. Catching battery ingestion as quickly as possible, especially button batteries, will help reduce your dog’s risk of injury. If you think your dog has eaten a battery, call your veterinarian.
Battery ingestion should not be treated at home, as the potential complications can be life-threatening. Instead, keep your veterinarian’s phone number and the number of your local veterinary emergency hospital in your phone, and do your best to keep electronics out of the reach of your pets in the future.
Further Reading and Resources
- DeClementini, C. VMD, DABT, DABVT. ‘Toxicology case: AA toxicosis: Alkaline battery exposure in a dog.’ DVM360. Sept 2014.
- Gwaltney-Brant, S. DVM, PhD, DABVT, DABT. ‘Corrosives.’ The Merck Veterinary Manual.
- Holowaychuk, M. DVM, DACVECC. ‘Top 5 Ingestions That Never Require Induction of Emesis.’ Clinician’s Brief. Oct 2015.
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