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4 min read

Snow Globes: Harmless Fun or Hidden Danger to Your Dog?


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Beautiful little snowflakes flowing slowly down in an idyllic Christmas scene is what most people think when they hear the words, "snow globe." Whether a delightful scene of holiday cheer, or a wintery snapshot of the Empire State Building or other famous city landmark, snow globes can now be found in many different variations that lend well to gift giving. 

Popular for years as both a cheap toy for kids and as ornate, beautiful decorations to proudly display on your tables or shelves, snow globes hide a dirty little secret. Some of them are filled with ethylene glycol, the same thing that is in antifreeze and some windshield wiper fluids, and unfortunately, it is simultaneously tasty and deadly to your dog. While most antifreeze poisonings occur from antifreeze leaked from a car, there is enough ethylene glycol in snow globes to potentially poison your dog if the snow globe gets knocked over and breaks open.

Let's take a look at why ethylene glycol can be so dangerous for your dog.

Snowman snow globe - Harmless Fun or Hidden Danger to Your Dog

The dangers of ethylene glycol

In order to understand just how dangerous snow globes can be to your dog, it is important to understand how toxic ethylene glycol is. Snow globes contain about a 2% concentration of this substance, but since it only takes 1-2 teaspoons of the liquid to kill a small dog, the amount in snow globes can certainly be of concern to pet owners.

The biggest problem with ethylene glycol is that it has a sweet smell that your pets are attracted to, which means they will want to have a taste. What your pets see as a treat, however, is a deadly poison that turns into poisonous metabolites. These metabolites lead to acute kidney failure and the development of calcium oxalate crystals in the kidneys.

Signs of ethylene glycol poisoning

There is no surefire way to way to know if a snow globe contains ethylene glycol, so if you think your dog has ingested liquid from a broken snow globe, do not wait to see if they develop symptoms and take your dog to the vet right away. Dogs must be treated within 8 to 12 hours of ethylene glycol ingestion, as delayed treatment usually means kidney damage has already occurred and the prognosis is typically poor. There are three stages of symptoms:

Treatment of ethylene glycol poisoning

The success of treatment depends on how quickly it is administered. Be sure to tell your vet if you saw your dog ingesting the liquid, as well as how long ago it occurred and any symptoms you've noticed so far. Your vet can do a urine test which can reveal the presence of calcium oxalate crystals, a blood test, or even use a black light to see any leftover ethylene glycol on your dog's mouth, fur or urine to confirm a diagnosis. If positive, your vet will start treatment, which could include:

  • Removing toxins by¬†inducing vomiting or pump out the contents of the stomach, if within an hour of consumption.¬†
  • Administering IV¬†ethanol¬†or¬†fomepizole¬†that prevents metabolism of ethylene glycol.
  • Administering¬†a sodium bicarbonate IV to correct acidity in blood.¬†
  • Giving fluids, electrolytes and diuretics to support dog's body.
  • In cases of renal failure, dialysis may be recommended.

As you can see, it's imperative you seek emergency veterinary care immediately if your dog is possibly exposed to ethylene glycol. 

Various snow globes near other holiday decorations

Other snow globe dangers

Besides the toxic ethylene glycol found in many snow globes, there are other dangers present if a globe gets knocked over and shatters. Not only is your dog able to lick up the sweet-smelling ethylene glycol, but they will likely also lick up shards of glass and plastic items that could cause damage to their mouth, throat and digestive tract. Some items inside the snow globe could even cause an obstruction. Glass fragments could also cut delicate paws if walked over, so it's important to clean up any pieces right away.

Since most dogs don't climb or jump onto shelves, mantles and tables, a snow globe high up may be safe enough. However, if your large dog has a tail that can reach or they can jump up to those heights, or if you have a cat in house, be sure snow globes are far from reach, meaningful or accidental. 

Three young girls in Santa hats holding a snow globe

Snow globe safety tips

Does having a dog in the house prevent you from enjoying snow globes? Of course not! With some preventive measures, you can enjoy this holiday staple and keep your dog safe. Here's how:

  • If you are buying the snow globe, try to find ones made of plastic rather than glass to prevent shattering if knocked over.¬†
  • If snow globes are labeled, be sure to avoid any with ethylene glycol in the ingredients list.
  • Put snow globes up high where your dog (or cat) can't get them.
  • Keep snow globes out of the hands of unsupervised small children who may accidentally drop them or leave them where your dog can reach them.
  • Make sure all members of the household know the dangers of snow globes for your pets.
  • DIY your own snow globes which you can personalize with miniatures of your pet, or for gifts, using safe water and plastic globes.
  • Clearly post information for your vet, a nearby emergency vet clinic, and the Pet Poison Helpline for everyone to access immediately if needed.

Snow globes may or may not be labeled, but always assume there could be ethylene glycol inside. If you ever suspect your dog may have had access to this dangerous substance, take your dog to the vet immediately. A simple blood test performed promptly could potentially save your dog’s life.

With a little prevention and thoughtfulness, you can make sure your dog stays safe and enjoys this holiday season!

Exposure to¬†ethylene glycol¬†can be expensive to treat.¬†Start searching for pet insurance today¬†with¬†Wag!‚Äôs pet insurance comparison tool and find the ‚Äúpawfect‚ÄĚ one for your pet in just a few clicks!

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© 2024 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.