If your dog ingested bleach, you might be wondering “is bleach toxic to dogs?” Yes, bleach is toxic to dogs and bleach can cause serious complications and even death in dogs, especially when it is consumed straight from the bottle in an undiluted form and in large quantities. Fortunately, most dogs end up ingesting bleach that has been diluted and only end up ingesting small amounts. Dogs may accidentally ingest bleach by licking a floor that was recently mopped with diluted bleach or they may drink diluted bleach from a bucket when the owner steps away for a few seconds. Following is some first aid information if your dog ingested bleach.
My Dog Ingested Bleach (Clorox)
Chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite) is a common household product that is used to disinfect or remove stains. Chlorine may also be added to swimming pools. Despite its innocent purposes, bleach is an irritant and in high concentrations may cause serious damage when it happens to be accidentally ingested.
Children and animals are unfortunately often victims of such accidental ingestion. Keeping bleach out of the way is therefore imperative in households with children and pets, but accidents may still happen.
The ingestion of bleach is a concern because it is caustic and can cause mouth and gastrointestinal tract injury when ingested. Ingestion of bleach in dogs can therefore cause erosions in the mouth and gastrointestinal burns. Irritation of the tongue may lead to drooling. Once swallowed, in high concentrations it can cause an intense burning sensation and pain. Once in the stomach, bleach can cause irritation which leads to abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.
Signs of trouble may develop right after ingestion or as late as 12 to 24 hours after ingestion, explains veterinarian Dr. Fiona. How fast symptoms may arise may depend on the amount of ingested and whether the bleach was diluted or straight from the bottle.
Usually ingestion of a large amount of bleach is followed immediately with symptoms. Ingestion of ultra-concentrated bleach for commercial use by professional cleaners is particularly concerning because of it strenght.
“The amount of damage caused depends on the strength of the bleach – most household bleaches are 3-6% and don’t tend to cause severe damage – more irritation, whereas commercial bleaches are much more corrosive and can cause ulceration of the GIT (from the oesophagus, to the stomach and intestines).”~Dr. Goodall
What to Do if Your Dog Ingested Bleach
Fortunately, in most cases, the bleach is diluted with water when it’s used to mop the floor and dogs will only give a lick or two. This leads to milder cases of bleach poisoning.
What should dog owners do in the case their dog ingested bleach? In the case of mild bleach ingestion, dog owners can try to treat it at home. As a starting point, rinsing the mouth with water if the bleach was recently ingested can help minimize the amount that is swallowed.
Dog owners may want to encourage the dog to drink milk or water so to dilute any ingested bleach solution, suggest veterinarians Dr. Seth Chapman, Dr. Mary Nabity and Dr. Jennifer Pittman in an article for DVM360.
If your dog is reluctant to drink, you can encourage him by tossing in the water a few pieces of kibble or you can add some meat broth with no salt, no onion or garlic added. Do not give water or milk if the dog is exhibiting symptoms of convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness. Such dogs may be unable to swallow effectively and may choke.
Inducing vomiting in dogs who have ingested bleach is not recommended, unless told to do so by Poison Control or a veterinarian. This because vomiting would expose the dog’s throat and mouth again to its caustic action. On top of that, vomiting may lead to breathing difficulties if the vomit is accidentally aspirated in the lungs. Aspiration pneumonia is a risk when bleach is inhaled.
For digestive issues, affected dogs may benefit from a bland diet for a dog’s upset stomach. Veterinarian Dr. Altman recommends starting the bland diet at least 4 hours after vomiting has subsided if a dog who ingested bleach is showing this symptom.
Pepcid (famotidine) for dogs may be also helpful to protect the stomach. This over-the-counter drug is preferably given 20 minutes before food so to allow better absorption. Of course, a vet should be consulted prior to giving any over-the-counter drugs which can be a problem in a dog with health issues or on other medications that may interfere.
“Dilution of bleaches with water per label directions will often reduce the corrosive potential of these products and make them little more than mild GI or ocular irritants. Ingestion of dilute or moderate pH household bleach products rarely causes more than mild vomiting, hypersalivation, depression, anorexia, and/or diarrhea.”~Merk Veterinary Manual
At the Vet’s Office
If your dog ingested large amounts of bleach or is showing worrisome signs such as blood in the vomit or stool, coughing up blood, weakness, stumbling, reduced appetite, panting, restlessness you need to see your vet. Your vet will ask several pertinent questions such as the name of the product ingested, when it was swallowed and the amount swallowed.
The vet will check the dog’s vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate. The vet may take blood samples, such as a complete blood count (CBC) and a serum chemistry profile.
A dog who ingests considerable amounts may show increases of sodium and chloride in the blood (hypernatremia and hyperchloremia).
Fluid therapy using dextrose 5% in water in lieu of lactated Ringer’s solution may be more appropriate in this case considering the rise in sodium concentration in the blood.
Unfortunately, there is currently no antidote for chlorine ingestion in dogs. If your dog ingested bleach, veterinary treatment consists mostly of removing traces of chlorine from the body and providing supportive care.
“Treatment includes immediate decontamination (by flushing the exposed area), anti-ulcer medication, fluid therapy, and symptomatic supportive care. Severe poisoning can result in rupture or perforation of the intestines, or severe tissue injury. Immediate veterinary attention is recommended.”~Pet Poison Helpline
- DVM360: Letters: Providing the right fluids in patients with hypernatremia
- DVM360: Toxicology Brief: Sodium hypochlorite bleach ingestion in two dogs
- Merck Veterinary Manual: Chlorine Bleaches