What is Paintballs Poisoning?
In paintball, opposing teams use air guns to shoot capsules of paint at each other. The capsules, called paintballs, are designed to break upon impact and leave a mark on the opposing team. Paintball ingredients can vary based on the manufacturer, but they typically contain ingredients like polyethylene glycol, glycerol, gelatin, sorbitol, propylene glycol and dye. These chemicals are non-toxic and some are even used in laxatives; however the combination in a paintball can be dangerous for dogs, especially in large amounts. Paintballs often come in containers of 1,000 or more and according to the Animal Poison Control Center, some dogs have been known to ingest as many as 500. It’s not known what amount of paintballs are required for symptoms to be present; one Labrador retriever showed clinical signs after ingesting only 15 paintballs. Large quantities of paintballs cause hypernatremia (high sodium) and metabolic acidosis. Researchers aren’t sure why the combination of chemicals in paintballs creates a problem for dogs, but many paintball ingredients are also used in osmotic laxatives which concentrate water in the bowels. It’s believed that the relocation of large amounts of water increases the sodium concentration in the blood very quickly. Hypernatremia can be dangerous because as sodium levels rise, water is pulled out of the brain to compensate. This can result in swollen or ruptured blood vessels and hemorrhaging in the brain. The quick rise in sodium that occurs with paintball ingestion can be even more dangerous than a gradual progressive rise since it doesn’t give the brain time to compensate. Dogs that ingest large amounts of paintballs typically have symptoms of vomiting and lack of muscle control. Some may also have diarrhea and tremors. In severe cases, dogs can become comatose and euthanasia may be required, but this is rare. Most dogs can be treated successfully after paintball ingestion.
Paintball ingestion has been known to cause dangerously high sodium levels in dogs. This is called paintball toxicosis or paintball poisoning. Immediate treatment may be necessary to save your dog’s life.
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Symptoms of Paintballs Poisoning in Dogs
These are the symptoms you may see in a dog that has ingested paintballs. Immediate treatment will be necessary.
- Vomiting (with or without paint)
- Lack of coordination (ataxia)
- Thirst (polydipsia)
- Rapid heart rate
- Changes in consciousness
There are many different types and brands of paintballs, but none have yet been identified as more or less toxic.
Causes of Paintballs Poisoning in Dogs
These are some of the risk factor associated with paintball ingestion.
- Open containers of paintballs during a game
- Paintballs stored in a container that is not dog proof
- Dogs chewing through the container
- Dogs that like to eat everything
Diagnosis of Paintballs Poisoning in Dogs
Brightly colored vomit can often indicate your dog has ingested paintballs, but not all dogs have visible paint in their vomit. If symptoms aren’t present, missing paintballs, or color on your dog’s teeth or muscle may indicate that there is a problem. Once symptoms have become apparent, a blood test will show severe electrolyte imbalance including hypernatremia, metabolic acidosis, and sometimes hypokalemia and hypochloremia as well. If you didn’t see the incident, the veterinarian may suspect this could be related to paintball ingestion, assuming no other abnormalities or diseases are present. If you think your dog could have been exposed to paintballs, you should bring along a sample so the veterinarian can identify the ingredients.
Treatment of Paintballs Poisoning in Dogs
Calling a poison helpline can be a good first treatment if your veterinarian isn’t available, but try to make an in person appointment as soon as possible. Induced vomiting will help to reduce absorption within 1 hour of ingestion, depending on the recommendation of a professional. Veterinarians also frequently give warm water enemas help move the paintball chemicals through your dog’s system. Even if your dog isn’t showing symptoms, the veterinarian will want to monitor his electrolyte levels for at least 4 hours.
If severe symptoms are present they will need to be treated immediately. Intravenous fluids and appropriate electrolyte concentrations will help to balance hypernatremia and metabolic acidosis. Medication may also be given to control seizures and tremors as needed. Paintball poisoning typically resolves itself within 24 hours. Symptomatic dogs will need to remain in a veterinary hospital during that time so the veterinarian can monitor sodium and other electrolyte levels.
Recovery of Paintballs Poisoning in Dogs
Most dogs will make a complete recovery from paintball poisoning; however without treatment, large doses can be fatal. Finding and treating the condition as soon as possible will greatly increase your dog’s chances of survival. Since lethal paintball poisoning can develop quickly, avoiding exposure is the best way to manage the condition. Keep your dog away from open paintball containers if a game is in progress. Store paintballs in a location your dog doesn’t typically go, like the attic or garage. Avoid plastic containers your dog can chew through.