Q: My cat Milo is a dog-cat: He comes when I call, fetches small balls, and loves to play with toys. Last week, I caught him batting around a laundry detergent pod. Should I let him play with those things, or are they toxic?
A: Laundry detergent pods are so dangerous to pets that I recommend you store them where Milo can't reach them and, when you need more laundry detergent, buy something other than pods.
Standard laundry detergents can cause vomiting and diarrhea if ingested. But laundry pods contain highly concentrated detergent under pressure. The key words here are highly concentrated and under pressure.
When a pet or a child—attracted by the bright colors and candylike appearance—bites into the pressurized pod, it explodes, hurtling concentrated detergent into the lungs and stomach. Any that remains in the mouth, mixes with saliva and turns into a corrosive foam that is easily inhaled or swallowed. Inhalation causes coughing, breathing difficulties, wheezing and lethargy. When the detergent hits the stomach and the pet vomits, the vomitus may be aspirated into the lungs, causing additional injury.
If Milo does rupture a laundry pod, immediately wash his mouth, face and coat with enough water to remove the slippery, soapy feel and all the detergent. Encourage him to drink water or milk to dilute any detergent that made its way into his esophagus and stomach.
Then take him to the veterinarian, who can determine whether additional treatment is needed.
Editor’s Note: Knowing how to stabilize your dog during an emergency can help save its life. Here are some common emergency situations and pet first aid tips.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.