Most of us don’t give a lot of thought to the detergents that we use to wash our clothes or put in our dishwashers to clean our crockery-unless you happen to be unlucky enough to have an allergy or sensitivity to certain types of laundry detergents, in which case you probably have to pick your products carefully.
It is also worth bearing in mind the fact that dogs can suffer from contact allergies to certain types of detergents too-so if your dog is prone to allergies or suddenly seems to be itchy and uncomfortable or scratching more than normal shortly after you start using a different soap powder or liquid, this is something to bear in mind.
However, because today, there are so many choices on the market when it comes to choosing detergents to clean our clothes and dishes, there is a relatively modern addition to the range of household hazards that can pose a threat to your dog-in the form of pods or single-use tabs that are used in dishwashers and washing machines.
These pods and tabs are very popular today because they are so easy to use and mess and hassle free-you don’t have to measure out the detergent and risk spilling it or dropping powder, nor have to worry about getting the dosage right. Also, products like these are designed to look appealing and attractive to make people want to buy them-they are often brightly coloured and tactile, being pleasantly squishy and almost jewel-like to look at!
It is these single-use pre-measured pods of liquid and shaped hard powder tabs that can cause a problem for your dog-and in this article, we will explain why this is, and what the risks are. Read on to learn more.
Laundry and dishwashing detergents are concentrated and have a biological action (other than specialist non-bio products for treating delicate fabrics or to reduce sensitivities) in order to clean clothes or crockery thoroughly and effectively, removing debris and tough stains or marks, such as dried on food.
They contain colouring and potentially fragrance chemicals, and substances called surfactants, which are a type of chemical that is designed to lower the surface tension of the washing water, to make washing more effective. Whilst these chemicals are great for washing clothes and dishes, they are toxic to people and dogs. However, they neither smell like food nor taste good, and so dogs are unlikely to decide to lick up a spill of laundry liquid or chow down on a tub of washing powder!
Soap powder can even be helpful for dogs in some situations-if your vet needs to induce vomiting in your dog in an emergency, they may use chunks or crystals of a biological washing agent that has been determined as safe to use under supervision of a professional for such a purpose as to encourage your dog to throw up if they have eaten something dangerous.
But outside of this specific application and performed by your vet, detergents are not something you should leave around for your dog to get into-and they are highly unlikely to try to either!
Dogs won’t go out of their way to lick, eat or play with liquids and powders intended for washing clothes and crockery-but pods and tabs do have an appeal of their own. They are small, compact and often brightly coloured, and have a tactile feeling to them in the case of sachets of liquid detergents.
Their size, dimensions and the way that they feel means that inquisitive dogs might mistake them for a toy, or pick one up and hold in their mouth-which means that they can easily ingest detergent by biting through the casing or holding the tab long enough for the coating to dissolve, or by swallowing one whole. Additionally, if your dog thinks that the pod or tab is a toy, this can make it harder to get if off them as they might think that you are simply joining in with their game.
If your dog eats a whole pod or tab or ingests the contents of one, this can be very risky-particularly in the case of dishwasher tabs, which tend to contain harsher chemicals than laundry tabs. However, laundry tabs tend to produce more suds and foam, which is a problem in and of itself.
Your dog is likely to begin vomiting fairly soon afterward ingestion, and therein lies the main risk-detergents bubble up and foam when added to liquid and agitated, which means that your dog may well retch or vomit foam, which can obstruct their ability to breathe and lead to inhaling the foam into the lungs. This can potentially cause suffocation, and/or a serious inflammation of the lungs due to the irritants present in the detergent.
If you know or suspect that your dog has swallowed a pod or tab, or bitten and ingested the contents of a pod, contact your vet immediately and take the packaging with you when they tell you to take your dog in.
Keep laundry and dishwasher pods and tabs well away from your dog-in a secure cupboard out of their reach. Don’t throw pods or tabs on top of a load of washing in a basket-put them directly on top of the washing in the machine.
Don’t leave dishwasher tabs out on the counter or in a box next to the dishwasher either-and if you drop or lose one, seek it out rather than leaving it to worry about later, lest your dog finds it first.