My Dog Ate An Iron Oxygen Absorber: What to Do? (Solved & Explained!)

Iron oxygen absorbers are little packets that can be found in most dry foods for dogs in order to keep them bacteria-free and ensure longer shelf life. However, what happens if your dog accidentally ingests one of these packets?

Dogs are unable to eliminate the excess iron from their bodies, therefore the iron damages their liver, neurological system, heart, gastrointestinal system, and metabolic system. The severity of your dog’s symptoms depends on how much iron they consumed.

This article will explain in detail what an iron oxygen absorber is, what will happen to your dog if he eats one, and what to do to help your best friend through these troubled waters.

What is an iron oxygen absorber?

Oxygen absorbers are frequently used in dry or dehydrated food packaging to extend shelf life and prevent food deterioration and discoloration. The substance that is most frequently utilized within oxygen absorbers is elemental iron.

Elemental iron can cause iron toxicosis, or iron poisoning, in your dog.

Why are iron oxygen absorbers dangerous?

When it comes to oxygen absorbers, the ingredient list is frequently absent from the outer package, making it difficult for animal health professionals to decide on the best course of action. The label does not specify the amount of elemental iron, even though the outside package includes iron as a component.

Calculating the risk of hazardous exposure after consumption is challenging for vets due to the difficulties in obtaining this information, which might delay the course of action they will take to treat your dog.


The dog’s digestive tract is severely irritated by elemental iron, which also has direct corrosive effects. Vomiting, either with or without blood, is one of the initial symptoms of poisoning after consumption. Keep in mind that if the dog does not vomit, this is a sign that the dose of elemental iron ingested might not have been in an amount that is toxic. However, even if the dog does not vomit right away, a trip to the vet is always required in order to determine if there will be delayed effects.

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If the dose is high enough to result in poisoning, after vomiting, it may take up to 5 days for shock, severe metabolic acidosis, and liver toxicity to appear. Small dogs have been the victims of the most severe cases of iron poisoning brought on by oxygen absorbers.

The adverse consequences of too much iron are known as iron toxicosis or iron toxicity, and they appear in four stages. These stages are clusters of symptoms that manifest themselves over a specific period of time, which starts from the moment of ingestion, up until weeks after the occurrence. The four stages will occur in every case of iron toxicosis, even if not every single symptom of each stage manifests itself.

Even though some of the symptoms in each stage are quite serious, each symptom will be treated individually by the vet, and they will only carry the risk of fatality if they occur during the third stage of toxicosis (12 to 36 hours after the ingestion of elemental iron).

Stage 1 – First 6 Hours

During the first stage of poisoning, you can expect the following symptoms in your dog:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Severe tiredness
  • Seizures
  • Accelerated heartbeat

Keep in mind that not all these symptoms might occur, and even if there is only one manifestation, it is advisable that you seek a professional immediately.

 Stage 2 – 6 to 24 Hours

This is a very complicated phase in the sense that the initial symptoms will stop and seemingly have disappeared. This does not mean the poisoning is gone from the dog’s body, and they need to be kept under observation by a vet.

 Stage 3 – 12 to 36 Hours

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  • Fever
  • Yellowing of the eyes and skin (referred to as jaundice)
  • Organ failure
  • Fainting
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Muscle spasms

In extreme cases, the dog might succumb to the poisoning and their system will shut down permanently.

Phase 4 – 4 to 6 Weeks

  • Intestinal blockages
  • Liver damage
  • Bloody diarrhea

Phase 4 is when the dog will determine if the dog is safe from a fatal outcome. The ongoing manifestation of symptoms needs to be appropriately treated by the vet. There is a small chance of permanent damage. 

What to do

If you believe your dog ate an iron oxygen absorber, never induce them to vomit! If not done correctly, it might harm the esophagus. The first step is always to contact a vet to get the appropriate medication prescribed. 

Give the vet as much information as you can about your dog. Give useful details such as the dog’s age, medical history, and past health difficulties – if any.

What are the vet procedures?

Your veterinarian will do a blood test to measure your dog’s SI – that is, the Serum Iron – level and total iron-binding capacity, usually referred to as TIBC. If the blood SI level is higher than the TIBC, iron toxicity can be diagnosed.

Your veterinarian will take a few crucial measures to remove the extra iron from your dog’s system after diagnosing iron toxicity. This might involve saline solution stomach pumping, oxygen treatment, inducing vomiting, or IV fluids.

Chelation therapy is another possible course of action, in which a pharmacological agent is used to bind to the body’s iron and direct it via the kidneys so that it may be eliminated through your dog’s urine. 

A minimum of 24 hours will be required for your dog to get observation and treatment at the veterinarian. The signs and effects of iron toxicity may require further treatments, including surgery, weeks later, especially in the latter stages of toxicity.

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The prognosis is favorable if your dog shows no symptoms, and you seek treatment immediately. If poisoning symptoms are obvious and you seek medical attention within the first 12 hours, your dog’s prognosis is guarded, but it’s crucial to keep an eye out for any further symptoms. For the following few months, you must keep a close eye on your dog’s health since intestinal strictures and blockages can occur even if your dog showed no symptoms in the first place.


Oxygen absorbers contained in pet treats can cause iron toxicity in dogs. Iron toxicity should be addressed as soon as possible after ingesting a dangerous dose of iron for the best chance of recovery. As soon as you realize your dog has consumed an oxygen absorber, keep a close eye on them and look out for any signs for a few months. Some dogs don’t exhibit any early symptoms, but after some time, they may develop intestinal obstruction and stricture. Always remember to remove any oxygen absorber packets from dog treat containers, especially the ones that contain iron. Better safe than sorry!