Like some toddlers, dogs attempt to consume just about anything they find that may be potentially tasty. This includes things that aren't meant to be eaten. Silica gel packs, used in packaged products ranging from shoes to vitamins to pizza crusts, are just the type of nonedible item a dog may eat if given the chance. While the silica itself should cause no harm, the packet may contain dye or substances absorbed from the item that contained the packet.
Silica gel is like manmade sand
Silica gel is a form of silicon dioxide, a compound that's common in nature. Sand is made mostly of silicon dioxide. Glass and quartz also contain this compound. Silicon dioxide is also used as an anti-caking agent in many food seasoning jars. In this case, the sandy substance is mixed right in with the salt, garlic powder or other ingredients in the spice blend. Clean silica is nontoxic to humans and dogs.
Silica gel absorbs moisture
Those little packs of silica <ahref="http: mentalfloss.com="" article="" 19775="" what-would-happen-if-you-ate-one-those-silica-gel-packets"=""> </ahref="http:>found in so many product packages are called desiccants, used to keep nearby items dry when in a sealed environment. Packages of beef jerky, pizza crust, medicine, or even electronics may contain these gel pouches. Since the gel absorbs around 30 percent of its weight in water, it helps protect nearby products even in humid conditions.
What if a dog ate silica gel?
If your dog ate silica gel, there's no need to fret just yet. First, consider the origin of the gel packet. If it came from a food product that wouldn't harm a dog, such as a pizza crust, the silica on its own isn't toxic to the dog either. If the gel was packaged with pills, chemical fertilizers, or other materials that could make your dog sick, contact a local veterinarian right away, as the packet may have absorbed some of the surrounding substance.
When to worry
If your dog is choking on the packet or can't breathe, do your best to dislodge the packet from the dog's throat. Pry his jaws open and use your fingers or a spoon handle to free the packet. If necessary, perform the Heimlich maneuver by pressing his belly inward just below the rib cage as you would do on a human. Use gentle force, especially on a small dog.
If your dog ate silica beads in abundance, this could also be an issue, as they could cause dehydration or the packets could cause blockage in the intestinal tract. Neither packets nor beads will expand in the body, but the dog may vomit or have loose stools until the packets pass. Contact a veterinarian if your dog ate a silica packet and seems to be acting strangely or if the gel inside the packet is blue or another color, as it could contain dyes or potential toxins.
Prevent dogs from eating silica
A dog might go out of her way to eat those silica gel packets included with food products, largely because the packet smells like food. Whenever you are opening any sort of packaging that might include desiccants, search for silica gel packs inside. Place those safely out of your pet's reach, which means not throwing them away in a kitchen trash can if your dog searches there for snacks when you're away. Discard packets carefully in sealed trash bags kept in cans outdoors, especially if the gel packets may have absorbed materials harmful to pets or people. Gel packs included with vitamins or foods can be reused once dried out. If you do decide to keep them, pack them in a sealed container out of the reach of pets and small children.