Dangers of Batteries to Pets

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Having a pet is a joyous experience. However, there are many things that you have probably never even thought of that can be dangerous to your pet sitting around your home.

Batteries are just one of the potentially hazardous items that you probably just have lying around your house. Many objects in our homes require batteries, and we probably don’t think much about where these items are and whether or not our pets can access them.

Unfortunately, dogs and cats don’t know that batteries are dangerous. Since our pets don’t understand the dangers that batteries pose, they might try to bite or play with them. The alkaline or acid inside of the battery can leak out of the battery when punctured by a tooth. When swallowed, batteries can rupture. The corrosive acid can lead to injuries both internally and externally for your pet. Alkaline dry cell batteries and disc or button batteries are some of the most commonly chewed and swallowed batteries. Disc-shaped batteries often contain lithium.

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Disc-shaped batteries are especially dangerous because they can allow electric current to pass into the tissues of the gastrointestinal tract as the battery is passed through your pet’s system. This can damage these tissues and cause perforation and necrosis. The stomach, small intestine, esophagus, and oropharynx are the most commonly affected parts of the body. Lithium button batteries are the most dangerous type of battery that your pet could get ahold of because even a 3-volt battery can cause necrosis to the GI tract or esophagus in just 15 to 30 minutes.

A secondary danger of batteries is obstruction. When your pet swallows a battery, the foreign object can become stuck in the throat or gastrointestinal tract and cause a variety of different problems like difficulty breathing and defecating.

So, how can you tell if your pet has ingested a battery?

Signs of Battery Poisoning

Some of the most common signs of battery poisoning include:

  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Oral pain
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Inability to defecate

While all of these symptoms could mean that your pet has swallowed a battery, they can also be signs of other illnesses. Therefore, if you see any of these symptoms, you should contact your veterinarian right away and take your pet in for an examination.

Diagnosing and Treating Battery Poisoning

Battery poisoning is usually diagnosed using x-rays, but treating the problem can be much more challenging.

When you contact a veterinarian about battery poisoning, they might ask you to flush your pet’s mouth with tepid water for 15 to 20 minutes. You don’t want to induce vomiting, because the corrosive liquid in the batteries can cause more problems when vomited up. For example, your pet could inhale the battery acid into their lungs while vomiting, which is very dangerous. After you have flushed your pet’s mouth, you should go see a veterinarian.

Your vet will likely assess the situation using an x-ray, and then decide the best course of action for removing the battery. In some cases, your vet may be able to get rid of the battery without surgery, but it is likely that an endoscopy or surgery will need to be done to remove the battery.

Pain medication and antibiotics will be sent home with you to prevent pain and infection after the battery is removed. Anti-ulcer medications, antacids, and stomach protectants may also be prescribed for your pet to help during the healing process. Be sure that you give them to your pet as recommended by your veterinarian. You might also need to give your pet a bland or high-fiber diet during the recovery process.

How to Prevent Battery Poisoning

To prevent battery poisoning, you need to restrict your pet’s access to items that contain batteries. This means that pet owners need to be aware of the items that contain batteries and where they are located in the home. Some of the most common items to watch out for include:

  • Remote controls
  • Toys
  • Watches
  • Calculators
  • Flashlights
  • Hearing aids
  • Cameras
  • Wireless computer devices

While you likely do your best to keep these items out of your pet’s reach, there will probably be a time when your pet has access to them. One simple thing you can do is keep loose batteries in a drawer or cabinet that your pet can’t get into. Also, if you drop a battery, make sure you pick it up and put it away immediately.

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