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What is Fabric Softener Poisoning?

Our furry family members, and canines in particular, are very curious creatures and often explore with their mouths. Because of this, they may get into household products that are within their reach but are not suitable or safe for their consumption. Fabric softener is one of the products that may be accessible, and often pet owners do not realize the dangers they are inadvertently exposing their dog to. Fabric softeners can cause injuries to our pets similar to those experienced with an alkaline toxicity. The effects can be severe and range from mouth ulcers, to vomiting and seizures. Because of the severity in symptoms, the importance of getting your dog to the veterinary clinic after exposure to fabric softener must be taken seriously. Cationic detergents can cause injury as drastic as fluid in the lungs and collapse. In many cases hospital treatment and supportive measures will be necessary.

Cationic detergents are corrosive meaning they can cause injury to mucus membranes, the eyes, and the skin. This compound is known to be highly toxic to our pets and is found in fabric softeners (liquid, pod, and dryer softener sheets). Cationic detergent poisoning can produce inflammation, irritation, and systemic problems for your dog; veterinarian care is essential after exposure.

Fabric Softener Poisoning Average Cost

From 24 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

$400

Symptoms of Fabric Softener Poisoning in Dogs

Symptoms of fabric softener poisoning may range in severity due to the place of exposure, type of product, and length of time that the product was available to your pet. For example, if your pet walks through a spill of liquid fabric softener the effect will differ from an incident where your dog chews on a dryer softener sheet.

Skin exposure

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Ulcers
  • Pain

Oral exposure

  • Burns
  • Ulcers
  • Loud breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Vomiting
  • Inflammation such as swollen tongue
  • Drooling
  • Cough
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort

Ocular exposure

  • Excessive tearing
  • Corneal injury
  • Redness and inflammation
  • Swollen closed eyes

Pets who experience significant poisoning may exhibit additional symptoms including muscle weakness, fluid in the lungs, collapse, central nervous system depression, seizure, and coma.

Types

Fabric softener poisoning will cause damage in ways, classified as dermal (skin), ocular (eyes), and oral (mucus membranes of the mouth and throat).

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Causes of Fabric Softener Poisoning in Dogs

  • Cationic detergent exposure can range from local corrosive injury to systemic effects that can cause damage in many areas of the body
  • Damage is instantaneous and occurs before treatment can commence
  • A pet can walk on the site of a liquid fabric softener spill and experience harsh dermal exposure
  • Additional harm can occur when the dog licks the product off the feet and fur
  • Ocular damage can happen if the canine wipes his eyes with a saturated paw
  • Dermal effects can be more severe with broken skin or prolonged contact
  • Fabric softener sheets can be ingested
  • Fabric softener pods can be bitten, and the fact that they are highly concentrated and under pressure means the product can spray upon impact into the mouth and throat
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Diagnosis of Fabric Softener Poisoning in Dogs

Diagnosis will depend on the poisoning case. For example, a dog who has had a dermal exposure may now have an oral and ingestion presentation after licking the product from the fur. In any case, as soon as you realize that your dog has had contact with a fabric softener product, wash the area with water and try to encourage your pet to drink water. Bring him to the vet immediately. In these instances it is difficult to keep a calm demeanor and presence of mind, but if possible bring the fabric softener packaging with you or take a picture of the product with your cellular phone.

When you arrive at the clinic, the top priority will be to stabilize your pet as the diagnostic process takes place. Contingent upon the immediate health of your dog, the veterinarian may take blood tests (white blood cells may be elevated) and a physical examination could be in order, to assess the damage to mucus membranes. When there has been a poisoning by fabric softener, vomiting is never induced, nor is active charcoal or lavage used due to the very possible reality of additional damage to the stomach, esophagus, trachea and throat because of the corrosivity of the product.

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Treatment of Fabric Softener Poisoning in Dogs

Treatment will be entirely supportive due to the fact that there is no antidote to fabric softener poisoning. Intravenous fluids will most likely be needed to reduce seizures, vomiting, and pain. The administration of antibiotics (with severe ulceration), anti-inflammatories, and gastroprotectants will be necessary as well. If required, flushing of the eyes and washing of the skin will be done. Respiration therapy and measures such as placing a tube through the stomach wall (for nutrition if the stomach or esophagus are burned and raw) could be needed. Unless the situation is mild, as in a case of light exposure on the skin, hospitalization will be needed.

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Recovery of Fabric Softener Poisoning in Dogs

The recovery for a pet who has had a poisoning episode could be lengthy. If there is extensive ulceration of the mucus membranes or eye damage that needs ointment,  frequent follow-up visits will be in order to ensure recovery is on track. Your beloved pet may be fragile over the next few weeks and months; tender care and patience will be necessary. Keep in constant communication with the veterinary clinic and do not hesitate to ask them for advice or assistance as you aid your dog in his recovery. As for safety around the home, be extremely vigilant as a pet owner with every household product that can cause a potential toxicity.

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Fabric Softener Poisoning Average Cost

From 24 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

$400

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Fabric Softener Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Labrador Retriever

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Six Months

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Eyes Red Eyes

Just woke up to my puppy’s eyes shut. Gave 4 ml of children’s Benadryl and it seems to be clearing up... she is still super playful, is there anything I can do to help her with more relief she is itching at her eyes

Aug. 6, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. 4 mLs of children's benadryl is about 10 mg of benadryl, and the dosage for dogs is 1 mg per pound. A 25 pound dog would get 25 mg of Benadryl. You can try giving her the right amount for her weight and see if that helps. If it does not, then having her seen by your veterinarian would be best, as she may need other medications. I hope that she is okay!

Aug. 6, 2020

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Chihuahua mixed with Rottweiler

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Five Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

None

What are the symptoms and how quickly does it affect your dog when he eats unstoppable fabric softener?

Aug. 5, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello Fabric softener can cause gastrointestinal upset like vomiting and diarrhea. You may notice these symptoms within 4-6 hours. I recommend that you take your pet to a veterinarian right away for an exam and treatment. Good luck.

Aug. 5, 2020

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German Longhaired Pointer

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8 weeks

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Not Eating Drinks Water

Doesnt wanna eat plays and drinks water has diarrhea

Aug. 2, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Young puppies are very prone to parasites and infectious diseases like parvo virus. If your puppy is not wanting to eat and has diarrhea, it would be best to have them seen by a veterinarian right away, even if they are still playful. A veterinarian will be able to do a few simple tests, examine your puppy, and get any medications needed so that they can stay healthy. I hope that all goes well with your puppy.

Aug. 2, 2020

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French Bulldog

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6 weeks

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

None

My 6 week old puppy was smelling fabric softener but not sure if they licked it. Will he be okay?

July 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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Hello, Many times just one lick and they will be okay. If your dog starts vomiting, salivating, or lethargic, it would be best to see your vet. They can treat your dog for any toxic signs.

July 25, 2020

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Louie

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Labrador Retriever

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8 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

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No Symptoms So Far

My puppy ripped up a box of dryer sheets while we were gone! He seems to be ok but he only ate them about 3 or 4 hours ago. He chewed on a lot of them but didn't swallow one whole, he only tore pieces off of them and swallowed those! Is my dog going to get very sick or die?

June 11, 2018

Louie's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Dryer sheets can cause ulceration and burns to the mouth and GI tract, and Louie may need medical therapy if he starts showing any signs of vomiting, diarrhea, pawing at his mouth, drooling, or not wanting to eat. There is also the possibility that the sheets will cause an intestinal blockage. If he starts to show any of those signs, it would be best to have him seen right away by a veterinarian.

June 11, 2018

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Eddie

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Doberman Pinscher

dog-age-icon

2 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Vomiting
Appetite Loss

We have a dryer that can vent indoors in the winter. Can the fabric softener fumes mixed with the moist air cause dogs to become ill? Our boy is vomiting a bit, not as energetic as usual and didn’t want to eat breakfast this morning.

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Ziggy

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Bichon Frise

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5 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

Hi. I came home last night and found a used dryer sheet near my dogs cage. It wasn't wet, so I'm not sure if he chewed it or not. It is possible he ate one but I don't think he would/did. He doesn't really chew things too often. But I saw he had thrown up so I googled and became concerned. He's about 14-15 pounds, a bichon/maltese sort of mix (he as rescued so I'm not sure). This was about 24 hours ago. He woke up fine this morning, ate all of his food and pooped. But when I came home this afternoon he had vomit caked on his chest and collar. He was still acting like his normal self. Drinking, eating, pottying, playing. I wanted so see if he would throw up if I fed him something so I gave him a yogurt belly bone. He did not throw it up. We went for a walk a few hours later and he ran/barked/walked/screamed/tongue + tail wagged/pooped/peeped all around, like normal. I thought we were out of the woods, but once we got back he was acting like he was going to vomit (he didn't have anything in his stomach to vomit up). So I just ran to the store and grabbed some Pepcid and gave him half a pill with peanut butter and bread. I will continue monitoring him to make sure he doesn't throw that up. He hasn't lost his appetite, acted weird, or been unable to defecate/urinate. But the two vomits have still made me nervous. Should I be concerned? Should I take him to the vet?

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Ollie

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coonhound mix

dog-age-icon

5 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Dry Nose, Licking, Hardly Drinking,

Can using fabric softener when washing a blanket that my dog puts in his mouth when he goes to sleep cause a problem? Lately he has been constantly licking his pee pee, warm nose, some vomiting and not acting well.

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Paloma

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Husky

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2 Months

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

None

My dog bit a fabric softener container, it started to drip after she stopped, I don’t know if any got into her mouth, she is sleeping right know, she likes sleeping, I will give her milk because I heard milk can help clear out any type of poisoning, and I have tried it before with people.

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Dundie

dog-breed-icon

Maltipoo

dog-age-icon

2 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

None Yet

I opened the door to my laundry closet and the liquid Downy softener fell off and cracked. It dribbled as I ran it to the sink and my dog ran over. I didn't see him lick anything up but knowing him he may have gotten a drip (maybe the size of a penny). Should I be worried? He hasn't shown any symptoms. This was about 10 min ago

Fabric Softener Poisoning Average Cost

From 24 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

$400

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