Laundry detergent pods have been in the news recently to help inform consumers about the dangers of consuming the bite-sized pods. What many pet owners may not know is that these detergent pods are also dangerous for the dogs and cats in our homes. VETMED wants all pet owners to understand the risks that these little pods pose to pets.

What Are the Dangers of Laundry Detergent Pods?

It probably comes as no surprise that these detergent pods contain laundry soaps, and laundry soap isn’t safe for consumption by humans or animals. The real danger behind laundry detergent pods in comparison to liquid or powder detergents is that the pods contain a highly concentrated amount of the detergent in a single bite-sized shell, so they are incredibly easy for pets to eat without realizing that they taste bad. Since the detergent is highly concentrated, your pet is more likely to ingest a larger amount of harmful chemicals than if they got into liquid or powder detergents.

Laundry detergent pods were made to dissolve in the water in your washing machine. The saliva in your pet’s mouth can cause the outer material to dissolve, which will release the detergent into your pet’s mouth. This makes it possible for your pet to ingest the detergent even if they don’t bite down on the pod. If your pet ingests the entire pod, including the outer casing, not only will they be consuming dangerous chemicals, but the casing can also become lodged in their gastrointestinal tract and cause an obstruction.

Many homeowners don’t treat laundry detergent the same way they treat other dangerous household chemicals such as bleach, which means that it is often very easy for pets to get access to laundry detergent. In some cases, owners unintentionally leave detergent pods out where their pets can easily pick them up and eat them, and some owners think nothing of leaving laundry detergent containers open regardless of its form.

Fortunately, a sniff of laundry detergent probably won’t be harmful to your pet, but ingestion of a large amount or even just a single detergent pod can make dogs and cats very ill. Detergent poisoning can lead to vomiting, and since laundry detergent is foamy, the foamy vomit is easy for pets to inhale. Once in your pet’s airway, the detergent can prevent oxygen exchange in the lungs, which causes suffocation.

The ingestion of laundry detergent can also cause difficulty breathing, coughing, and inflammation of the lungs. Pets may also experience drooling, gagging, or retching. Diarrhea and lethargy are other possible side effects of laundry detergent ingestion.

Dogs are more likely to ingest laundry detergent pods. In fact, ASPCA Animal Poison Control says that 92 percent of detergent pod ingestions that they have seen have involved dogs and only 6.5 percent of their cases involve cats. However, in liquid detergent ingestion cases, just under 60 percent of the time, dogs ingest the detergent. Cats are involved in 41 percent of liquid detergent ingestion cases, which is likely due, in part, to the fact that cats are more likely to knock over a container of liquid detergent onto themselves and then ingest the detergent during grooming.

What to Do If Your Pet Eats a Detergent Pod

If you believe that your pet has ingested laundry detergent—regardless of its form—contact a veterinarian right away. If your regular veterinary clinic is closed, you should reach out to an emergency veterinary clinic or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control hotline is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you know your pet has ingested something toxic like detergent, it’s very important to not attempt to induce vomiting yourself. This step should only ever be determined and performed by a medical professional.

For minor cases, meaning those without vomiting, you may be told to give your pet a little water or milk to help dilute the detergent. If your pet has detergent on its fur or skin, you will need to get that washed off as soon as possible to prevent any further ingestion. Veterinary care should be sought immediately if you notice your pet vomiting or having any problems breathing.

VETMED knows that it is impossible to watch your pets at all times, and accidents like laundry detergent pod ingestions are possible issues that pet owners may face at some point. We recommend that pet owners keep all forms of laundry detergent tightly closed in a safe place that your pet can’t access. If a spill occurs, get it cleaned up right away to avoid potential problems.

If you live in the Phoenix area and you believe that your pet has ingested laundry detergent in any form, call VETMED at 602-697-4694. Our emergency team is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help in these types of situations, and we are well-equipped to deal with poisonings of all kinds.