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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.

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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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6 mos

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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

None

Dog ingested used dryer sgeet

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Dog BAR, tpr wnl. No other signs of concern, both dogs having diarrhea. If not improving, will recheck. I hope that your dog is fine, and things that would be concerning would be any signs of vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy or a decreased appetite.

Oct. 10, 2020

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Labrador Retriever

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3 months

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

Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea

My puppy chewed a hole in the fabric softener jug. Didn’t get much, but must’ve got some. She has had diarrhea this morning. Other than that she seems like her normal self. Just a little sleepy. Should I be worried?

Sept. 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 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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Fabric Softener Poisoning Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$400

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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