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My Dog Ate a Dryer Sheet: Here’s What to Do (Our Vet Answers)

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By Dr. Samantha Devine

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Written by

Dr. Samantha Devine

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Your furry friend follows you around the house, so it’s no wonder they stroll into the laundry room with you. We don’t mind company when doing chores!

Unfortunately, you dropped a dryer sheet you were about to add to the laundry, and your pup consumed it before you could pick it up. Should you worry if your dog ate a dryer sheet, or is it not a big deal?

This is an emergency, and you will need to contact your vet. Read on to learn about why eating dryer sheets is a serious situation.

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The Dangers of Dryer Sheets

Dryer sheets, or fabric softener sheets, are dangerous for your dog to eat. They can be a choking hazard, but the chemicals used to make your laundry smell great are also toxic. Used dryer sheets are just as bad as unused ones, so keep all of them away from your dog.

Here is a breakdown as to why dryer sheets are so dangerous:

They Contain Cationic Detergents

Fabric softener sheets usually contain cationic detergents. These chemical compounds are corrosive and can cause tissue damage. You can also find chemicals such as chloroform and benzyl acetate in fabric softener sheets.

If your dog eats a dryer sheet, it can inflame their mouth, esophagus, and GI tract. Your dog could have ulcers and may show signs like drooling or vomiting. Your dog could have mild or severe signs, including fluid build-up in their lungs, nervous system depression, seizures, and death.

They Could Cause Gastrointestinal Blockage

Depending on the size of your dog and the number of dryer sheets your dog ate, your pup could develop an intestinal obstruction. Fabric softener sheets don’t usually break down easily, so they aren’t something that will degrade in your dog’s stomach. Rather, they’ll have to move through the digestive tract whole, which can lead to blockage issues, especially if more than one is eaten.

Signs of an intestinal obstruction include vomiting and lethargy. Your dog might not want to eat, and you might not see them have a bowel movement. Their abdomen could also be painful.

dryer sheets
Image Credit: Noah Rolseth, Shutterstock

What Should I Do?

If you notice it while your dog is in the act, try to get them to drop it. While hindsight is 20/20, it’s times like this one that teaching your dog to “drop it” or “leave it” is helpful. Be careful, and don’t get hurt trying to wrangle the laundry sheet away from your dog.

Contact your veterinarian immediately if you realize a dryer sheet is missing or see your dog eat it. Dryer sheets pose several potential hazards, and your veterinarian is needed to treat them. Your vet might suggest that you induce vomiting—but only do that if they tell you explicitly to do so because making your dog vomit up these laundry sheets can be dangerous.

Treatment if Your Dog Ate a Dryer Sheet

In most cases of dryer sheet ingestion, you shouldn’t make your dog vomit. The potentially corrosive chemicals used in dryer sheets could cause more damage on the way up. Vomiting can also lead to aspiration, especially if your dog is depressed.

One treatment option is to rinse your dog’s mouth with water to remove chemical residue. The Merck Veterinary Manual recommends diluting the chemical by giving your dog milk to drink.

In the case of intestinal obstruction, surgery may be necessary. If your dog recently ate the dryer sheet, less invasive procedures might be considered, such as using an endoscope to retrieve the material. However, remember that many veterinary hospitals do not have endoscopy, so your veterinarian may have to refer you to a specialty center.

Dryer sheets can also cause skin irritation, especially around your dog’s mouth, or even eye trauma if your dog had it touch their eye. Your veterinarian will generally rinse the area thoroughly and may prescribe topical therapy or even pain medication. In severe cases, your vet might prescribe antibiotics.

vet holding the dog in the clinic
Image Credit: Dmytro Zinkevych, Shutterstock

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you rub your dog with dryer sheets?

You might see recommendations online to rub your dog’s fur with dryer sheets to remove loose hairs and dander. Please do not use dryer sheets on your dog. These sheets can contain chemicals that can be abrasive to your dog’s skin. If your dog licks or chews at their fur later, they can also develop oral ulcers or lesions.

Can you use dryer sheets for your dog’s bedding?

Avoid using dryer sheets for your dog’s bedding because it’s easy to misplace one or two when doing the laundry. It’s better to avoid the risk.

Consider dryer balls for your dog’s bedding (and even your own). These dryer aids are usually made of wool and can help soften laundry as they tumble around in the dryer. They’re also harder to misplace and don’t usually contain chemicals that could harm your pup.

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Conclusion

If your dog eats a dryer sheet, don’t panic, but also don’t delay. Contact your veterinarian immediately to get your dog the help they need. While this is a scary situation, it is important to try to remain calm so you can help your dog quickly.


Featured Image Credit: Shotmedia, Shutterstock

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