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In today’s tech-savvy world, batteries are more common than ever. From objects like remote controls and flashlights to children’s toys and household appliances, they power a multitude of devices we use daily. However, for pet owners, particularly those with dogs, the prevalence of batteries presents a risk. Dogs, with their curious nature and tendency to explore the world orally, might accidentally ingest batteries, leading to severe complications. As such, it is crucial for dog owners to be aware of the potential dangers and know what steps to take if this situation arises.

The Danger of Batteries: Chemicals and Physical Blockage

The danger that batteries pose to dogs primarily arises from two factors: the harmful chemicals they contain and the potential physical blockage they can cause in a dog’s digestive system.

Batteries, especially alkaline and lithium types, contain corrosive substances like potassium hydroxide and lithium that can cause chemical burns to a dog’s mouth, throat, and stomach. When the battery casing is breached, these harmful substances leak out, posing a serious risk to your dog’s internal tissues.1

Additionally, ingested batteries may cause physical obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract. Depending on the size and shape of the battery, it may lodge in the esophagus, stomach, or intestines, leading to serious complications such as blockage, perforation, or even death.2

Types of Batteries, Their Chemicals, and Toxicity Levels

Battery Type Common Sizes Chemicals Toxicity Level
Zinc-Air Coin Cell (hearing aids) Zinc, Potassium Hydroxide Medium
Silver-Oxide Coin Cell (watches, calculators) Silver, Potassium Hydroxide Medium
Nickel-Cadmium AA, AAA, C, D Nickel, Cadmium Medium-High
Alkaline AA, AAA, C, D, 9V Potassium Hydroxide High
Lithium Coin Cell, AA, AAA, 9V Lithium High
Lead Acid Car batteries, UPS batteries Sulfuric Acid, Lead High
Every dog is different. For specific feeding guidelines, including quantities and beneficial foods that are best for your dog, please consult your vet.

While all batteries pose a risk if ingested, alkaline and lithium batteries are particularly dangerous due to the corrosive and potentially fatal effects of their chemical components.

Recognizing Symptoms: When Your Dog Needs Help

If your dog has ingested a battery, certain symptoms might appear, indicating that immediate help is needed:

  • Drooling excessively: This symptom may be an indication of nausea, discomfort, or pain in the mouth or throat due to chemical burns from the battery’s content.
  • Pawing at the mouth or face: A dog may paw at their mouth or face if experiencing pain or discomfort. This can be a sign of oral irritation or chemical burns caused by the corrosive materials within the battery.
  • Loss of appetite: If a dog refuses to eat, it may indicate a problem in the digestive system. A swallowed battery could cause stomach irritation or even obstruction, leading to decreased appetite.
  • Abdominal pain or swelling: This symptom is often a clear sign of gastrointestinal distress. It could indicate that the battery is lodged in the dog’s stomach or intestines, leading to physical discomfort or even a blockage.
  • Vomiting or retching: A dog may try to vomit to expel the ingested battery. If the battery has leaked, vomiting might also be a response to the corrosive chemicals affecting the dog’s stomach lining.
  • Bloody stools or vomit: This is a serious symptom suggesting potential internal damage. The corrosive chemicals from the battery can cause bleeding in the digestive tract, leading to bloody stools or vomit.
  • Changes in behavior such as restlessness or lethargy: Changes in a dog’s normal behavior often signal discomfort or distress. A dog may become restless due to pain or discomfort, or lethargic if they are feeling unwell due to the ingested battery.

It’s important to remember that symptoms may vary depending on the type and size of the battery, and the severity of the dog’s condition. Some symptoms may not appear immediately but could develop over several hours or days.

Immediate Actions and When to Contact a Professional

If you suspect that your dog has swallowed a battery, do not attempt to induce vomiting. This can cause more harm, especially if the battery has leaked any corrosive material.

Immediately remove any remaining batteries or battery-containing items from your dog’s reach to prevent further ingestion. Try to identify the type and size of the battery if possible, as this information will be helpful to the veterinarian.

Then, call the ASPCA Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. This situation is an emergency that requires professional medical attention. Timing is crucial, as the sooner your dog receives treatment, the better their chances of recovery.

Key Takeaways: Battery Ingestion

In our tech-driven world, batteries pose an unexpected but serious threat to our pets. As conscientious dog owners, we must keep batteries out of their reach to prevent accidental ingestion.

Remember, batteries contain corrosive chemicals and can cause physical blockages in our pets, leading to severe health issues. Familiarize yourself with symptoms of ingestion, such as excessive drooling, loss of appetite, and changes in behavior.

In the unfortunate event of your dog swallowing a battery, don’t induce vomiting. Instead, seek immediate veterinary assistance. Knowledge and quick action can be a life-saving combination for your four-legged friend.

  1. The Dangers of Batteries and Your Pets: What You Should Know, (2018).

  2. Button battery ingestion: Assessment of therapeutic modalities and battery discharge state, (1985).

Frequently Asked Questions

  • If you suspect that your dog may have swallowed a battery, but you’re not sure, it’s best to err on the side of caution and contact your veterinarian immediately. They can perform imaging tests such as x-rays to determine if a battery is present in your dog’s system.
    Even if your dog doesn’t immediately show symptoms after swallowing a battery, it’s critical to seek veterinary help. Symptoms might not manifest immediately but can develop over hours or even days, and the sooner your dog receives treatment, the better their chances of recovery.

  • Even if your dog only chewed on the battery and didn’t swallow it, they could still be at risk. Chewing can cause the battery to leak harmful chemicals which can cause burns in the mouth and throat. Clean your dog’s mouth with a damp cloth and contact your vet immediately for further guidance.

  • The length of time it takes for a battery to pass through a dog’s system can vary greatly and depends on the size and type of the battery, as well as the dog’s size and overall health. Regardless, if you know or suspect your dog has ingested a battery, it’s a medical emergency and immediate veterinary attention is necessary.


About the Writer
Dan Greco , Dog Dad

Having been a dog dad for 5 years, I know how hard it is to make sure your dog gets the right nutrients and stays away from hazardous foods. With the help of a veterinarian who specializes in nutrition, I created this blog to help dog owners quickly access food information they need.

photo of vet holding a pup
About the Contributor
Dr. Hillary Wolfe , Veterinarian & Certified Food Therapist

Dr. Wolfe holds a doctorate in veterinary medicine from Kansas State University and holds nutrition certifications from the NAVC and CIVT. Her business, Tula Veterinary Nutrition, hosts online courses that teach owners how to cook for their pet for optimal health and longevity. Follow her on Instagram at @doctorwolfe.dvm for dog nutrition tips, recipes and insights.