What is Acids Poisoning?
Acids are chemicals that have a pH lower than 7. They are found in many household products like cleaners, pool chemicals and automotive battery fluid. These chemicals are toxic to dogs as well as humans, however dogs have a higher risk of exposure since they are more likely chew through a bottle or investigate an unknown substance. Exposure can take place through ingestion and inhalation, as well as skin or eye contact. Highly concentrated acids cause immediate pain upon contact with burns and ulceration developing within a few seconds. Acid ingestion will cause ulceration of the gastrointestinal tract with vomiting and abdominal pain. The dog may react vocally and paw at the mouth or throat immediately afterwards. Exposure through inhalation will cause severe breathing difficulties with fluid in the lungs and cyanosis, a bluish discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes. If acidic chemicals get into the eye, the dog will squint unnaturally and the eye may eventually swell shut. There is no antidote for acid poisoning, and immediate damage can make treatment difficult. Large doses of highly concentrated acids can cause irreparable damage to the gastrointestinal tract, lungs, or eyes.
Chemicals that are strongly acidic cause immediate burning and ulceration upon contact. This is called acids poisoning. Dogs have a high risk of exposure to acids in common household products like cleaners, car batteries, and pool chemicals.
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Symptoms of Acids Poisoning in Dogs
Seek treatment immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms of acid poisoning.
- Vocal noises
- Pawing in the mouth
- Excessive thirst
- Vomiting (with or without blood)
- Abdominal pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Swollen throat
- Difficulty breathing
- Ulceration around or inside the mouth (oral ingestion)
- Bluish tinge to the skin and mucous membranes (inhalation)
- Squinting, excessive tear production, eye swollen closed (eye exposure)
- Redness and burning at area of contact (dermal exposure)
These are some of the different acids that could cause a problem for your dog.
- Hydrochloric acid
- Sulfuric acid
- Nitric acid
- Phosphoric acid
Acids may be found in the following household products.
- Automotive batteries
- Toilet bowl cleaners
- Metal cleaners (gun cleaning fluid)
- Anti-rust compounds
- Hair straighteners
- Drain cleaners
- Swimming pool cleaners
- Etching compounds
- Vinegar – only problematic in large doses
Causes of Acids Poisoning in Dogs
These are some of the factors that contribute to exposure.
- Leaking bottles
- Open containers
- Dogs chewing through a bottle
- Improper storage
Diagnosis of Acids Poisoning in Dogs
Acid poisoning will be diagnosed based on a history of exposure and signs of ulceration and pain. Symptoms of severe toxicity are usually evident immediately and some dogs may even be in shock. With ingestion, endoscopy is recommended to evaluate the extent of the damage to the gastrointestinal tract. With this test, a small video camera will be inserted down your dog’s throat under anesthesia. Dermal and ocular exposure will be assessed with a physical examination. Affected areas will have a milky grey appearance immediately, but the tissue will quickly turn black and develop scabs which may fall off in a few days. If the eye is involved, the veterinarian may need to add a colored stain the make corneal damage more visible. Abnormal breathing sounds may be audible through a stethoscope with inhalation. An x-ray may also be necessary to check for fluid in the lungs.
If you believe your dog has been exposed to a toxic product, you should bring a sealed container with you so the veterinarian can identify it and determine if it is responsible for your dog’s symptoms. In cases where vomiting and diarrhea are the only symptoms, and there is no known history of acid ingestion, the veterinarian will need to eliminate other infectious causes.
Treatment of Acids Poisoning in Dogs
If you don’t have access to emergency veterinary services, call a poison hotline for immediate recommendations and make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Follow any professional’s instructions exactly. Vomiting should never be induced with acid poisoning, as this will cause further damage to the gastrointestinal tract. Giving your dog milk or water is recommended to dilute the acid concentration and reduce further damage. For skin or eye exposure the area should be gently flushed with water.
The veterinarian will treat immediate life-threatening symptoms like shock and respiratory difficulty. Medication will be given to reduce pain and inflammation and limit infection in the damaged area (intravenously if necessary). If there is severe damage to the mouth, throat, or esophagus and a feeding tube will need to be inserted to assist with nutrition until the ulcers begin to heal. Unlike many toxicities, activated charcoal and stomach flushing are contraindicated with acid poisoning since these will also result in further damage. The veterinarian will mitigate symptoms as much as possible and attempt to keep your dog as comfortable until the acids are flushed out of the body and the damaged tissue has had time to heal. For severe cases, your dog will need to stay in a veterinary hospital during recovery. Very extensive tissue damage may not be treatable.
With ocular exposure, the eye will be flushed with water for at least 20 minutes to eliminate the acid. Damage to the eye will be treated as necessary with eye-drops and medication to limit pain and inflammation. Topical creams will be administered for skin ulcers and the area may be lightly covered. If your dog is sent home, you will need to apply these medication until the area has healed.
Recovery of Acids Poisoning in Dogs
Severe exposure to concentrated acid has a guarded prognosis. Corrosive damage can take place quickly and even if the dog survives there may be permanent scarring or vision loss. Scar tissue in the gastrointestinal tract can cause problems with swallowing and eating and might require surgery at a later date.
Mild exposure to dilute acids, such as vinegar don’t typically cause a problem for dogs. Many veterinarian used a vinegar and water solution to clean out the ears. This type of solution can also be used safely as a household cleaner. Ingestion of a large amount of undiluted vinegar typically only causes gastrointestinal upset in dogs.
The best way to manage acid poisoning is by limiting exposure. Store all cleaners and other strongly acidic products out of reach of your dog. Make sure your dog is secured in a different area when these products are in use. Check regularly for leaking or damaged bottles. These same measures can also help protect other household members, especially children.