My Dog Ate Desiccant: Should I Worry? (Solved & Explained!)

When you purchase some foodstuffs and other items that need to stay dry, they often come with a small packet that reads ‘do not swallow’ but unfortunately, your dog can’t read. So, if your dog ate desiccant, what should you do?

It depends on the type of desiccant. Typically, it will be one of 3 types – silica gel, charcoal, or iron. With the first two, your dog may experience vomiting or diarrhea, but the iron variety is potentially corrosive and if your dog has eaten this then you definitely want to get them to the vet right away.

In this article we’re going to talk a little more about desiccant types, what you can do if your dog eats them, and more information that you need to know about desiccants and your dog. Read on and we’ll tell you about them!

What are the different desiccant types?

The most common type of drying packet is going to be desiccant silica gel, which look like small, plastic beads when you open up the packet. They are used to soak up any excess moisture inside a packaged item and this, in turn, helps to keep it dry and extend the shelf life.

Sometimes you’ll find them in things like beef jerky packages and they are generally only non-toxic or mildly-toxic as far as your dog eating them is concerned. Charcoal is another common type, and you’ll see black powder inside these packets if you open them up or if your dog only ate part of the package.

The third type is an Oxygen packet utilizing iron. They’ll have a brownish powder inside them and you can further test them by applying a magnet. If the dust sticks to your magnet, then this is definitely iron, and these are more dangerous for your dog, due to their corrosive nature

The iron packets should be considered the most dangerous and should warrant an immediate trip to your vet, as they can severely poison your dog. With silica and charcoal based packets, your dog may not get sick at all, or might get a sore tummy along with vomiting or diarrhea if a lot was consumed.

What happens if a dog eats a silica packet?

Silica packets are not very harmful for dogs, and are considered to be ‘practically’ non-toxic. The beads inside may be clear or might be dyed red or green, but unless your dog ingests very large amounts of them, there will generally be no ill effects.

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These beads will not expand in their stomach or anything awful like that, but most likely will simply be destroyed in your dog’s stomach or pass through in their stool.

 Keep an eye on your dog, as vomiting or diarrhea is still possible, and oily foods such as canned tuna can help your dog to pass the beads a little more easily. Make sure they have access to lots of water and if you are worried, you can call your vet or ASPCA Poison-control at 888-426-4435.

In the majority of cases, however, your dog is going to be just fine if they are a small amount of silica gel, just don’t let it become a regular thing and watch your dog for the next 24 hours to make sure that they are fully recovered.

What happens if my dog eats a charcoal packet or cylinder?

Another common desiccant utilizes a simple addition of powdered charcoal or activated carbon, which might be stored in a packet, but more commonly will be inside small, plastic cylinders where they are housed, so that they can absorb moisture from the product that they have been placed inside to protect.

If your dog has eaten one of more of these, they should be fine, as the charcoal is not going to be toxic to them.

 The plastic cylinders can get caught in their teeth from time to time, so you might have to help with that, and in the case of a dog with bad teeth one your dog could get a cracked too, but the toxicity should not actually be a worry.

As with silica gel, the worst that will likely happen is a stomachache, potential vomiting, and perhaps a little diarrhea, but the chances of even these occurring are fairly low (with small and older dogs being the most likely to show this).

Oxygen absorber packet desiccant with iron

The desiccant packages that use iron powder are really the ones that you need to worry about, so we’ll talk a little more about how to identify those and what you can do. These packets are commonly found in packages of pepperoni, some beef jerky, and even some dog treats and the package is usually 1 x 1 inch square.

Sometimes there is more than one packet and you can test it quickly with a magnet and by cutting it open to see if there is a brownish powder inside. Ingestion of a toxic amount will typically cause vomiting right away, but if you suspect that your dog has eaten one of these then get them to the vet NOW.

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Small and older dogs are especially susceptible, but basically what happens is that the elemental iron powder will act as a corrosive that can poison your dog, sometimes causing shock, hepatic toxicity, or even metabolic acidosis.

If you can’t get your vet, call the ASPCA Poison help line at 888-426-4435 and they can assist you to induce vomiting or suggest other steps which might help. Usually a 3% hydrogen peroxide mix can help to do this, but as the package is corrosive you should not induce vomiting unless specifically instructed by an expert.

Some closing comments on desiccant and dogs

Today we’ve discussed what you can do if the dog ate desiccant and the good news is that gel, charcoal, or activated carbon desiccants are mild to even non-toxic where your dog is concerned. That said, if the packet contains iron (easily tested with a magnet), then you want to get the vet involved right away.

If the packet was completely eaten by your dog, check in the house to see if you have another one of the same products in order to check the packet inside. Once you’ve determined the type, then you’ll know what to do, but if you have any doubts then don’t hesitate to call the vet!