Dogs & Ink Poisoning

Ink consumption can make your dog sick.
Image Credit: Photographer, Basak Gurbuz Derman/Moment/GettyImages

Oh no! Your dog ate pen ink! Aside from a big mess you probably have to clean, how harmful is that to your dog? What about other objects that contain ink, like printer cartridges? The crunchy plastic probably isn't great for him to chew, and the ink probably isn't healthy either, but how bad is ink poisoning for dogs anyway?

Dog ate pen ink

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, writing ink from an ink pen is primarily composed of dyes, pigments, solvents, and water. Writing ink is generally considered nonpoisonous. That said, you don't want your dog thinking your writing pens or your art markers are a tasty snack.

If your dog ate pen ink from an art marker like Copic markers, the main ingredient is pure alcohol. Pure alcohol, or ethanol, is the same as the alcohol that is in alcoholic beverages. It's also in common household products such as hand sanitizer, antifreeze, perfumes, mouthwash, windshield-washer fluids, and glass cleaners. If your pets are able to get to any of those products, they might be interested in lapping it up.

Signs of ethanol poisoning

Ethanol is not something you want your dog to drink. VetFolio says signs of ethanol toxicity in dogs can last 12 hours or more depending on how much ethanol was ingested. Ethanol poisoning can cause nervous system damage. Signs of ethanol poisoning are lethargy, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, disorientation, and trouble breathing. Severe signs could include coma or seizures.

That said, it would likely take a lot of ethanol to cause a problem, particularly for a larger dog. It would take more than ink from a single pen to cause a serious health problem. According to the American Kennel Club, the published oral lethal dose in dogs is 5.5 to 7.9 g/kg of 100 percent ethanol. One milliliter of ethanol is equal to 0.789 g.

In other words, it would take about 6 milliliters per 2.2 pounds of your dog's body weight to cause a problem. For a 40-pound dog, the dog would have to drink about 90 milliliters to cause a problem. To put that into perspective, a 22-ounce soda is 650.5 milliliters. According to PetCoach, if your dog ate pen ink only and didn't really consume the plastic, gently flush the ink out of her mouth with warm water and observe her for any signs of ethanol poisoning.

Dog eating plastic

Often, the device containing the ink is more dangerous to your dog if it is eaten. PetCoach acknowledges that a pen may break apart into plastic shards if a dog chews it, but it's impossible to know if the shards are causing a problem without observing behavior and noticing something wrong.

The danger with the plastic bits is that they can damage his gastrointestinal tract as they pass through. It is possible that your dog may need some vet care as the pieces of plastic pass through. Keep a close eye on him and call your veterinarian if you see anything out of the ordinary, especially vomiting or lack of appetite.

Animal Poison Control Center

Ink poisoning is probably not something you have to worry about because your dog would have to consume a lot of ink in order to feel an effect from it. However, the container itself may be a problem.

If you are worried about the ink, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals's Poison Control Center has a 24-hour hotline at 888-426-4435 for pet owners who fear that their animal has consumed something toxic. A credit card number may be required, and you may be charged a consultation fee. Consult your veterinarian as soon as possible if you are worried about your dog's health.

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