Battery Poisoning in Dogs

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Battery Poisoning in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Battery Poisoning in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Battery Poisoning?

Batteries are used to power everything from kids toys, to cell phones, to hearing aids. They are often small and this makes them easy to chew and swallow. This can be exceptionally dangerous to your pet. The alkaline in most batteries causes a condition of the mucous membranes in the mouth and gastrointestinal system called liquefaction necrosis causing deeply penetrating ulcers that form over several hours. If your pet chews on or ingests a battery seek veterinary attention immediately. It is not recommended to induce vomiting if your pet has ingested a battery as it can cause additional corrosion and pain in the esophagus, and increase the chances of airway obstruction.

Batteries can cause serious damage when chewed or ingested and must be kept out of reach. If your dog has chewed on or eaten a battery it should be treated as an emergency.

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Battery Poisoning Average Cost

From 63 quotes ranging from $200 - $5,000

Average Cost

$400

Symptoms of Battery Poisoning in Dogs

Some of the symptoms of battery poisoning occur immediately upon ingestion. Other symptoms may not be apparent for several hours. Ulcers that are seen shortly after contact with the alkaline materials may continue to worsen over the next twelve hours or so as the tissues soften due to a process called liquefaction necrosis.

  • Abdominal pain
  • Black, tarry feces
  • Difficulty swallowing 
  • Excessive drooling
  • Fever/hyperthermia
  • Increase in white blood cells
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Mouth pain
  • Ulcers in the mouth
  • Ulcers on tongue
  • Vomiting

Types

There are several types of battery that can cause symptoms if punctured or ingested. The most common types of battery that dogs get into are batteries that most people have around the house. 

Cylindrical - This battery is probably the most common battery we think of and the most common one for a dog to be able to chew. Some cylindrical batteries employ alkaline and carbon zinc materials while others are the lithium variety. The burns from lithium batteries can be particularly severe, but the alkaline batteries are more likely to be damaged by stomach acid, possibly leading to heavy metal poisoning. 

Button battery - These are usually small batteries used in smaller electronics like cameras, hearing aids and watches. These batteries present an extra risk as they can allow an electrical current to pass to nearby tissues, causing current-induced necrosis. One 3-volt lithium button battery can cause severe necrosis to the esophagus or gastrointestinal system in less than half an hour. Some button batteries also have cadmium and mercury, both of which can prove toxic to your pet.

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Causes of Battery Poisoning in Dogs

There are several elements in batteries that cause them to be dangerous:

Alkaline material

  • Most household batteries contain alkaline material that can cause liquefaction necrosis which creates deeply penetrating ulcers that form over several hours

Acidic material

  • Car batteries are often lead-acid batteries
  • In the unlikely event that your dog chews through the casing of a car battery, the acid could cause severe burns to the mouth and eyes
  • The burns are not as deeply penetrating as the ulcers caused by an alkaline material

Heavy metals

  • There are several heavy metals that are used in batteries that can be toxic to your pet
  • Toxic metals that can be found in batteries include lead, zinc, mercury, cadmium and cobalt 

Electric current

  • This is of particular concern with disc and button batteries
  • The way that these batteries are formed allows an electrical current to cause necrosis to nearby tissues when it gets lodged in the esophagus or as it travels through the gastrointestinal system
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Diagnosis of Battery Poisoning in Dogs

If you suspect your dog has ingested a battery it is imperative to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your veterinarian will get a history of the symptoms from you and perform a physical examination. If you have any portion of the battery that has not been ingested bring that with you to the veterinarian’s office. The physical examination will pay special attention to the mouth and throat area to see if any ulcers or spots of liquefaction necrosis have developed and to see if there is any black powder in the mouth from a punctured battery. Even if your veterinarian does not find any ulcers during the initial appointment, they can still develop over the next twelve hours or so. X-rays will be recommended to check and see if any part of the battery is still inside the patient and to determine if it is intact or has been fractured. As the symptoms of battery poisoning can mimic other types of corrosive poison your veterinarian may need to test for other toxins as well to ensure the correct treatment is provided, particularly if the battery can’t be located.

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Treatment of Battery Poisoning in Dogs

The treatment is going to depend on several factors such as the amount of time since ingestion, the type of battery that was ingested, where it is in the gastrointestinal system and whether or not the battery has been damaged by chewing. Vomiting should NOT be induced as it can increase the corrosive damage to the esophagus and gastrointestinal system as well as increasing the chances of esophageal obstruction. Activated charcoal should also be avoided as it may increase the chances of vomiting and the toxic ingredients involved will not bind to it. If the battery was chewed in any way, the first course of action your veterinarian will take is to judiciously rinse the mouth area and any skin exposed to caustic ingredients. Medication may also be given to add a layer of protection within the gastrointestinal system. If the battery or battery fragments are found by the x-ray imaging they will usually be removed by endoscopy, which allows the veterinarian to view the esophagus and stomach as well. If the battery cannot be removed by endoscopy, surgery may be required.

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Worried about the cost of Battery Poisoning treatment?

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Recovery of Battery Poisoning in Dogs

Most patients should be kept off of food for 12-24 hours to allow the system to heal. GI protectants and antacids may be recommended at this point as they promote healing to the tissues of the gastrointestinal system. A temporary change in diet may also be recommended, generally to a bland, high-fiber regimen. Antibiotics are often required and the full course should be taken as prescribed by your veterinarian, and pain medications will be prescribed as needed. Your canine should continue to be monitored to ensure that symptoms of mercury or heavy metal poisoning are spotted if they develop. If symptoms of theses types of toxicity do develop contact your veterinarian for further treatment immediately.

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Battery Poisoning Average Cost

From 63 quotes ranging from $200 - $5,000

Average Cost

$400

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Battery Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Labrador Retriever

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One Year

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11 found helpful

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11 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Drooling

He chewed on 2 batteries where the alkaline came out and has been drooling. He seems a little off so we are worried.

Dec. 22, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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11 Recommendations

As he is showing symptoms, it is best he is checked by a vet who can assess him. We would be concerned about mouth ulcers as well as ulcers along the food pipe and g.i. tract. He may well benefit from medicine such as ant acids.

Dec. 22, 2020

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Beagle

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Eight Months

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3 found helpful

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3 found helpful

Has Symptoms

N/A

she punctured a battery i don’t think she swallowed any of the acid however

Sept. 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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3 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. I hope that she is okay. If she is having any problems, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get treatment for them.

Oct. 16, 2020

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Battery Poisoning Average Cost

From 63 quotes ranging from $200 - $5,000

Average Cost

$400

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