What is Play Dough (Homemade) Poisoning?
The main ingredient in homemade play dough sometimes made for children to play with is sodium chloride (salt), which causes salt toxicity in dogs. The excessive salt in the blood can cause the muscles to shrink and become rigid, creating tremors and twitching. The most serious symptoms of homemade play dough poisoning are neurological. The salt in the play dough causes the brain cells to shrink due to the release of water from the cells used to dilute the salt in the blood. As a matter of fact, in some cases of dogs eating homemade play dough, the huge amount of salt ingested has been fatal. If you make homemade play dough, be sure to keep it away from your dog, and be sure to supervise your children when they are playing with it.
Homemade play dough contains an excessive amount of sodium chloride (salt), which is toxic to dogs. Sodium chloride is an electrolyte, which helps to regulate your body’s water levels, muscle contractions, and nerve impulses. The way this causes damage is by the water in your dog’s blood cells being released to dilute the salt in the blood. This injures the cells, including the extreme and irreversible destruction of the brain cells, causing the neurological symptoms most often seen with homemade play dough poisoning. The damaged brain cells are broken off from their normal location, which causes the fluid to build up and may bring on seizures and possibly coma. Fluid also builds up in the lungs, producing breathing difficulty and weakness.
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Symptoms of Play Dough (Homemade) Poisoning in Dogs
Homemade play dough poisoning in dogs can cause many symptoms, from gastrointestinal to neurological, which can become serious, or even life-threatening, if your dog is unable to get fresh water to drink. In most cases, you will not notice any symptoms right away after your dog ingests the play dough, but if you suspect your dog has eaten any you should provide plenty of water. Your dog’s body can usually flush out the salt with a natural instinct to drink water. However, if you see any signs of poisoning, you should call your veterinarian right away. The symptoms of homemade play dough poisoning most often reported are:
- Abdominal cramps
- Abnormal fluid accumulation (edema)
- Appetite loss
- Confusion and disorientation
- Damaged kidneys
- Elevated body temperature
- Excessive thirst and urination
- Fast heart rate (tachycardia)
- High water loss through urine
- Hypertension and hypotension
- Irritation of the gastrointestinal tract
- Lack of energy
- Muscle tremors
- Respiratory distress
- Swollen tongue
- Walking as if intoxicated
Causes of Play Dough (Homemade) Poisoning in Dogs
A large amount of salt in homemade play dough causes the symptoms and damage of salt poisoning if your dog ingests enough of it. A severe toxicity due to homemade play dough can result in the shrinkage of cells in the brain, as well as shrinkage of muscle tissue causing them to become rigid.
Diagnosis of Play Dough (Homemade) Poisoning in Dogs
Your veterinarian will need a complete medical history of your dog, as well as any previous illnesses or injuries, vaccination records, and abnormal behavior. Be sure to describe what you believe your dog has eaten and how much you think he may have eaten. List any symptoms you have noticed so far, and if you have tried any kind of remedy (not recommended). The veterinarian will then do a comprehensive physical examination that will include height, weight, reflexes, body temperature, heart rate, respirations, blood pressure, and a close look at your dog’s eyes and ears.
Some laboratory tests your veterinarian will need to do are blood tests (complete blood count, blood gases, and blood chemistry) and a urinalysis to check for high levels of sodium. A complete cardiac workup will be done, including an electrocardiogram (EKG) to measure the electrical impulses in your dog’s heart. Imaging, such as radiographs (x-rays), CT scans, MRI, and ultrasounds of your dog’s head and chest will be done to look for any damage to the brain or lungs.
Treatment of Play Dough (Homemade) Poisoning in Dogs
Treatment for homemade play dough poisoning includes a hospital stay while the veterinarian administers IV fluids and electrolytes to treat for dehydration and swelling of the brain. Your dog’s fluid levels have to be brought up gradually over several days because otherwise it can cause cerebral edema (brain swelling), which can cause brain damage and death. The veterinarian will increase the fluid levels and decrease the salt levels in your dog’s blood over a period of time with warm water enemas. In the case of cerebral edema, he will use dexamethasone, DMSO, or mannitol and your dog will be kept in the hospital for at least 24 hours for observation.
Recovery of Play Dough (Homemade) Poisoning in Dogs
Be sure to follow your veterinarian’s instructions carefully. The veterinarian may prescribe a low-sodium diet for your dog, which is important for you to follow as well. If you are able to get your dog treatment right away (within the first 24 hours) the chances for a full recovery are good. Be sure to return to see your veterinarian for your dog’s follow up visit.