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Are Batteries Poisonous for Dogs?

Posted April 14, 2014 in Dog Toxins & Poisons

Dog digging through the

Batteries pose a major health risk to dogs and children when accidentally ingested. Battery ingestions are common dog emergencies due to the curious chewing nature of dogs. 

Many times, pet owners will come home to find the television remote control chewed on and a punctured battery on the floor. Sometimes, the batteries may be missing altogether. Unfortunately, if the battery is punctured, it can result in severe, life-threatening injury to the tissues of the mouth, esophagus, stomach and intestines.

What makes batteries dangerous?
As there are several types of batteries, it’s important to note the dangers presented by each type:

  • Most common household batteries are alkaline or acidic material batteries (e.g., 9-volt, DC, AA, AAA), which are corrosive when punctured or leaking (e.g., when a dog’s tooth punctures the battery). Alkaline dry cells (the majority of household batteries) contain potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide. When the compounds come into contact with tissue, liquefaction necrosis occurs, causing deeply penetrating ulcers.
  • Newer types of “disc shaped” batteries can allow an electric current to pass to the tissues of the GI tract as the battery is passed. This can result in a current-induced necrosis, causing tissue damage or even perforation of the oropharynx, esophagus, stomach or small intestine. (This video created by Arizona Poison & Drug Information Center shows the “burn” dangers of disc shaped batteries.)
  • The most dangerous types of batteries are lithium button type batteries. These are extremely dangerous for kids and dogs. Even one 3-volt battery can result in severe necrosis to the gastrointestinal tract or esophagus within 15-30 minutes of contact.
  • Lastly, certain batteries contain heavy metals (e.g., mercury, zinc, cobalt, lead, nickel or cadmium). Heavy metal toxicity can occur when these types are ingested by dogs, but typically the battery has to stay in the gastrointestinal tract for several days for this to occur.

What do I do if my dog swallows or chews a battery?
With any type of battery ingestion, immediate veterinary attention is imperative. That’s because the more time that passes, the more corrosive burning occurs in the tissue.

Key Point—You should not induce vomiting if your dog ingested a battery! What’s corrosive going down the esophagus is corrosive coming back up—meaning even more damage!

Key Point—While ulcers can develop secondary to the corrosive chemical within batteries, these ulcers may not show up in the mouth for several hours. This is

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Justine has more than 18 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a board-certified emergency critical care veterinary specialist and toxicologist as well as the CEO and founder of Vetgirl. She is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.