You are minding your own business when you realize the dog is chewing on something. Further investigation reveals he stole a 9V battery from your nightstand in the mistaken belief that it was a small steak. What do you do now? You call your vet.
It is not clear why dogs attempt to eat batteries. Perhaps they are simply curious. Nonetheless, chewing on or ingesting batteries could be very harmful to a dog’s health. As a dog owner, this is the number one reason to make every effort to keep batteries away from your canine friends.
Disposable alkaline batteries tend to be the most dangerous, but even lithium-ion cells can be problematic. Keep reading to learn why. When you are done, take a look around your house. If you have any loose batteries that could be picked up by pets or children, put them someplace safe. Always keep batteries stored where only adults can get to them.
Batteries and Liquefaction Necrosis
Some of the substances found in modern batteries can cause a condition known as liquefaction necrosis. It is a condition characterized by penetrating ulcers that develop over several hours. The ulcers appear in the mouth, mucous membranes, and intestines.
If you know anything about the word ‘necrosis’, it signifies tissue death. Liquefaction necrosis can be fatal as the deeply penetrating ulcers grow and devour more tissue.
Making matters worse are the corrosive materials found in alkaline batteries. They can cause burning in the mouth, esophagus, and stomach. For this reason, you should never attempt to induce vomiting in a dog you suspect has eaten any kind of battery.
Pale Blue Earth, a Salt Lake City company that sells USB rechargeable batteries, says that lithium-ion cells do not contain any corrosive materials. Yet they can still be just as dangerous to dogs, especially if they are chewed rather than swallowed whole.
Battery Poisoning Symptoms
It can be impossible to know your dog has chewed on or ingested batteries if you are not there to see it. Why? Because symptoms are not immediate. They develop over time. It doesn’t help that your dog can’t speak to you. Even if he isn’t feeling well, he can’t tell you about it.
Here are the most common symptoms associated with battery poisoning:
- Mouth pain
- Mouth and tongue ulcers
- Appetite loss
- Abnormal looking feces
- Excessive drooling
- Abdominal pain
- Difficulty with swallowing.
A veterinarian may suspect battery poisoning with the presentation of some of the symptoms. A diagnosis can usually be confirmed with a combination of imaging and a white blood cell count.
What Causes the Damage
It is possible for a dog to swallow a battery whole and not suffer adverse reactions. You would never know unless you went digging through its feces. Even so, damage can be caused by a battery’s electrical current.
Certain types of lithium-ion batteries can generate current as they travel through a dog’s gastrointestinal system. The current can cause necrosis wherever the battery makes contact with tissue. Tissue contact on both sides of the battery completes the circuit and draws electricity.
What else can cause damage? Both alkaline and acidic materials can cause liquefaction necrosis on contact. Heavy metals are equally dangerous in that they can be toxic. Actual metal pieces from chewed batteries can cut a dog’s intestines and stomach as well.
Battery poisoning is a serious problem. The best way to avoid it is to keep batteries out of your dog’s reach. If you do suspect your pet has eaten batteries, get it to the vet right away.