What Happens if a Dog Eats Silica Gel?

Silica gel is not poisonous -- but you can't let your dog consume it. Significant consumption poses health risks. Those tiny packets found in packaging for snacks and dry staples, electric and electronic goods, pills and leather products are dessicants. They maintain a state of dryness in the goods they're packaged with by taking in and retaining moisture.

Dessicant, silica gel
Silica gel beads don't expand within canines' stomachs.
credit: ajt/iStock/Getty Images

Slight Stomach Upset

Silica gel packets are typically labeled with the clear warning "Do Not Eat." This warning applies to human beings and pets alike. Silica gel is simply not meant to be consumed. If your dog happens to ingest silica gel, he might experience a slight degree of stomach upset. If your dog has runny stool, gas or bloating, silica gel ingestion could be the culprit.

Dogs generally recover from the consumption of a single silica gel packet with little treatment or none at all, according to the ASPCA. Dogs who consume small amounts of silica gel -- say a single packet -- in most cases don't display any clinical symptoms.

Significant Amounts of Silica Gel

Things can be different for dogs who consume silica gel in significant portions. If your pooch gets his paws on a significant amount of silica gel, he could experience intestinal obstruction, a severe health condition that's particularly risky for smaller dogs. Typical signs of intestinal blockage in canines include appetite loss, exhaustion, diarrhea, vomiting, shock, dehydration, fever and abdominal swelling. If these signs present, or if you believe your dog might have eaten a considerable quantity of the desiccant, contact your veterinarian immediately for emergency care.

Prompt Veterinary Attention

Your vet or an emergency veterinarian will determine what course of treatment or supervision a dog requires after consuming silica gel beads. The veterinarian may order an X-ray or ultrasound of the abdomen to determine whether the dog has an intestinal blockage. The vet will extract a blocking component via surgery. If it turns out that there's no intestinal obstruction, the veterinarian might prescribe medication that can soothe gastrointestinal distress. If obstruction isn't the case, the vet might analyze whether something other than silica gel is behind the symptoms, and then treat accordingly.

Curious Dogs

Be cautious whenever you open product packaging, and don't let your dog sniff around boxes freely. Silica packets are found in all types of products. Since curious dogs have the habit of consuming practically anything they come across, you'll have to be vigilant.