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--what could be so terrible about that?

These little ornaments have been popular for years as both a cheap toy for kids and as ornate beautiful ornaments to proudly display on your tables or shelves. But these enchanting scenes have a dirty little secret. Some of them are filled with ethylene glycol, the same thing that is in antifreeze; a substance that 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.

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 certain be of concern to pet owners.

The biggest problem with ethylene glycol is it has a sweet smell and taste that your pets are attracted to. It is a little like leaving chocolate in front of a small child and expecting them not to eat it. 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.

Has Your Dog Been Poisoned?

There is no surefire way to way to know if a snow globe contains ethylene glycol, so your best bet is to take your dog to the vet right away if you think that he has ingested the liquid from a broken snow globe. It is advised that you do not wait to see if he develops symptoms, purely because treatment of this toxin is very time sensitive. Dogs must be treated within 8 to 12 hours of ingestion; delayed treatment usually means that kidney damage has already occurred and the prognosis is typically poor.

If you suspect that your pet has ingested ethylene glycol there are three stages of symptoms that you will want to be on the lookout for:

  • Within 30 minutes to 12 hours your dog will appear drunk, he might drool profusely, and there may be vomiting, seizures, and excessive thirst and urination.

  • Between 12 and 24 hours these symptoms may appear to get better, but your dog may have an elevated heart rate, labored breathing, and dehydration.

  • 36 to 72 hours kidney failure may begin to occur with symptoms of severe lethargy, coma, depression, vomiting, seizures, and drooling.

Treatment

Your vet can do a blood test to check for ethylene glycol poisoning. If the test comes back positive he will start treatment with either ethanol or fomepizole. The prognosis depends entirely on how quickly you get your dog into the vet after ingestion, and how much kidney damage has been done. Once the kidneys have been damaged the prognosis begins to drop off rapidly.

Final Thoughts

The best way to avoid the potential of your dog ingesting the liquid from a snow globe is to make sure that you do not give them to small children and keep them out of the reach of your pets. Snow globes may or may not be labeled, but you may wish to avoid buying those that do not state whether or not they contain ethylene glycol. Finally, do not be afraid to take your dog to the vet even if you only suspect that the snow globe is toxic and your pet may have ingested the liquid. A simple blood test performed promptly could potentially save your dog’s life.