The last thing a dog owner wants is for their pooch to be put into a dangerous situation; unfortunately, it is possible for dogs to be unintentionally hurt by contact with solutions, chemicals, and products that, while not particularly harmful for humans, can cause injury or illness to dogs.
Dryer sheets are one such potentially harmful product. Curious or bored dogs may intentionally go after dryer sheets, while other pups may accidentally encounter a dryer sheet when snuggling with clean, warm laundry fresh from the dryer.
Whether you are simply curious about the harm dryer sheets can cause for your dog or your dog has just accidentally eaten a dryer sheet, you may wonder, what should I do if my dog eats a dryer sheet?
Depending on whether the dryer sheets were used, and whether they were torn up or fully intact when your dog ate them will determine how you should proceed. However, no matter what, it is a good idea to keep a close eye on your dog and, when necessary, contact the vet or poison control for additional assistance.
How Are Dryer Sheets Harmful to Dogs?
Added to laundry loads in the dryer, dryer sheets help reduce static on clothing and add softness; some also add fragrance. This is accomplished via a heat-activated coating of the same types of chemicals found in fabric softener (including surfactants such as cetrimonium bromide and benzalkonium chloride) on the dryer sheets.
The exact composition of the chemicals in dryer sheets may differ depending on the brand, scent, and make of the sheet: for instance, some dryer sheets are marketed as containing nontoxic or environmentally friendly ingredients. It is important to remember that some substances that are nontoxic to humans—such as some essential oils—are not necessarily nontoxic to animals.
In most cases, the chemicals in dryer sheets have the potential to cause harm to your pooch. This can include skin or mouth irritation (such as a swollen tongue or irritated mucous membranes) occurring after the sheet has been eaten and other symptoms of a poisoning episode such as vomiting, diarrhea, other digestive issues, drooling, seizures, or difficulty breathing.
Though there may be a risk of a reaction occurring after ingestion of a used dryer sheet, the danger greatly increases when a dog eats an unused, fresh dryer sheet. If the sheet was not run through the dryer, it will contain larger concentrations of harmful chemicals, leading to a higher likelihood that your dog could have a very serious reaction.
The risk of toxic chemical ingestion and exposure is not the only health threat dryer sheets pose to pooches: there is also a risk of these synthetic sheets causing an obstruction in the dog’s digestive tract.
In some cases—especially when the sheet was already torn up when the dog ate it—there is a chance the dog will pass it in a bowel movement. However, because dryer sheets are made of indigestible materials, it does not take much to cause a serious, life-threatening situation for the dog. This risk is further compounded if the dog eats multiple dryer sheets.
What Should I Do if My Dog Ate a Dryer Sheet?
If your dog ate a dryer sheet, it is a good idea to first try to determine the quality of the sheet when it was eaten, if possible: was it torn into pieces or swallowed whole? Was it unused or had it been run through the dryer?
While it is always a good idea to reach out to your vet when you have a concern about your pet, knowing the state of the eaten dryer sheet can help you determine how emergent the situation is. For instance, if your dog ingested a small part of a used dryer sheet, there is probably less risk than if they consumed an unused dryer sheet whole.
If your vet is unavailable, you may want to consider calling a poison helpline such as the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center—(888)426-4435—for exact guidance for your dog’s particular situation. Though this service charges $75 for assistance, it is available 24/7 and may be a good first-step resource to consult.
Your veterinarian may induce vomiting if the sheet was not eaten very long ago. Unless your vet directs you to, though, you should not induce vomiting in your dog at home because it may cause additional complications. If the sheet is causing an intestinal blockage, it is likely that the vet will need to conduct an abdominal ultrasound or x-rays and your dog may need to undergo surgery to remove it.
If your dog vomits after eating a dryer sheet and the dryer sheet is present in the vomit, the chance that they will have gastrointestinal tract obstructions will be greatly decreased. If this occurs, check to see whether or not the whole sheet has been regurgitated; if not, you will want to either contact the vet or wait until your dog has a bowel movement to check for the rest of it.
In this situation, it is also a good idea to keep your dog constantly on a leash, even in the house. You can let them just drag the leash around inside the house. That way, if your dog begins to vomit, you can grab hold of the leash and guide them away from the vomit so they don’t end up ingesting the dryer sheet again. Trust us, it happens, gross as it sounds. If it was tasty enough to eat the first time, why not again?!
It is possible that a bowel movement containing the sheet may take two to three days to occur. For this reason, if your dog has not had a bowel movement in two days, it is definitely a good idea to take them to the vet at that point even if they are not experiencing any other alarming symptoms like fever, vomiting, or pain.
How to Prevent Dogs from Eating Dryer Sheets
Dogs may eat or chew on dryer sheets for a variety of reasons, and knowing what attracts your dog to dryer sheets can help you find ways to redirect their attention or encourage change.
In some cases, dogs may consume a dryer sheet mostly by accident: for example, they are being playful or snuggling with some fresh laundry that contains a used dryer sheet and they unintentionally bite or eat it.
Some dogs are simply attracted to dryer sheets, though, and will go out of their way to track them down and try to play, bite, or chew on them. The scent may be what is enticing those dogs who specifically seek out dryer sheets. In those situations, the habit may be curbed by switching to dryer sheets that have a different scent or are unscented.
Boredom may also be the culprit behind why a dog is suddenly very interested in chewing on dryer sheets. To combat this, try to spend more time playing with your dog—especially playing in a manner that adds to their mental stimulation—or engage in more training to discourage unwanted habits like playing with or chewing on things that aren’t toys.
In addition to these strategies, a few simple changes may also help keep dryer sheets away from your dog:
- Make sure dryer sheets are off of the floor where your dog can easily access them.
- Check the clothes coming out of the dryer after each cycle to ensure the sheets aren’t stuck to them.
- Throw away dryer sheets in trash cans with closed lids so that the dog cannot reach them.
- Consider using dryer balls or other dryer sheet alternatives.
While dryer sheets can help a great deal with keeping laundry fresh-smelling, static-free, and smooth, they can also pose a danger to dogs due to their hazardous chemicals and indigestibility. If your dog has eaten a dryer sheet, make sure to keep an eye on them and get them help if they begin to show symptoms or if they have not passed the sheet in stool within two days.
Additionally, if your dog regularly wants to investigate the dryer sheets or play with them, consider moving them out of reach, switching to a different brand or scent, engaging in extra training or more playtime, or using a dryer sheet alternative in order to keep your pooch safe.