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Home > Ask A Vet > My Dog Swallowed a Battery: Here’s What to Do (Vet Answer) 

My Dog Swallowed a Battery: Here’s What to Do (Vet Answer) 

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Dr. Emma Chandley Photo

Written by

Dr. Emma Chandley

Veterinarian, BVetMed PGCertSAS MRCVS

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

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Dog owners know all too well that dogs love to chew, and they often chew things that they shouldn’t. Batteries come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and they are found in many different types of contraptions around our homes, from electronic devices to kid’s toys. If your inquisitive pup finds the television remote left lying on the sofa, curiosity often gets the better of them and they will start chewing it before you have a chance to intervene.

If your dog has bitten and chewed or swallowed a battery, this is a medical emergency, and you must contact your vet immediately. It can be extremely dangerous if your dog has eaten a battery. Even if you didn’t see your dog swallow the battery, but you are suspicious they may have chewed one, you still need to seek veterinary attention.

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Types of Batteries

The severity of the situation does depend on the type of battery chewed or ingested. Dogs usually come across alkaline dry cell batteries such as AAA, AA, C, D, 9-volt, and button batteries which are small ones shaped like a disc.

Alkaline Batteries

alkaline batteries
Image Credit: Visor69, Pixabay

Lots of standard alkaline batteries contain sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide. If this comes into contact with the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, liquefaction necrosis can occur. This leaves deep penetrating ulcers.1

Just by swallowing these batteries, your dog can experience gastric irritation or obstruction. If your dog chews them, they can also experience chemical burns in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract.

Button Batteries

packed button batteries
Image Credit: Alexei_other, Pixabay

Button batteries are very dangerous as they can cause an electrical current to pass to any tissues that they come into contact with in the gastrointestinal tract. Perforation injuries can occur due to necrotic tissue forming as a result of the current being applied. Button batteries containing lithium can cause necrosis in as little as 15 minutes so eating one of those can have devastating effects.

Heavy Metals

Some batteries contain what are known as “heavy” metals, for example:

  • Zinc
  • Mercury
  • Cadmium
  • Lead
  • Nickel
  • Cobalt

If batteries containing any of the above are ingested, heavy metal toxicity can occur. This is a rare occurrence and exposure depends on the transit time of the battery through the gastrointestinal tract.

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What to Do if Your Dog Swallowed a Battery

1. Ensure your dog does not have access to any other batteries

If possible, and if it is safe, try to remove any battery from your dog’s mouth. Take care not to get bitten. Remove the electronic device or toy your dog has been chewing and put it out of reach. Ensure there are no other similar things for your dog to start chewing in the area. Stay close to your dog and monitor them.


2. Contact your vet straight away

Do not delay calling your vet for advice. You can also ring the Pet Poison Helpline at (855)764-7661. They will be able to offer help and advice but they do not physically treat animals, so it is best to call your vet first to alert them of the situation. Your vet is likely to ask you to come straight down to be seen. They will need to ask some questions to obtain a full clinical history.

The questions will include:
  • How many batteries has your dog eaten?
  • What type of battery has your dog eaten?
  • What time/how long ago were the batteries eaten?
  • How big is your dog?
  • How old is your dog?
  • What does your dog weigh?
  • Does your dog have any underlying health conditions?
  • Is your dog currently showing any signs of illness?

Try and keep as calm as possible when talking to your vet. If you have any packaging available from the batteries, keep hold of it to show your vet. Your vet will give you instructions on what to do next. They will want to see your dog at the hospital as soon as possible in most cases.

vet checking a weimaraner dog
Image Credit: Nejron Photo, Shutterstock

3. Follow your vet’s instructions

They will advise you on what action to take based on what is best for the dog. If they tell you to bring your dog straight down, you must do this. Do not delay as your dog may be in grave danger.

Under no circumstances must you attempt to treat your dog at home. If you attempt to make your dog vomit, this can have catastrophic effects. If the battery is causing any sort of corrosive damage to the internal structures, making the dog vomit will cause even more damage on the way back out.


4. Don’t let your dog out of your sight

While you are on the phone or getting rid of bits of battery, be careful not to let your dog out of your sight. Your dog may suddenly start to show some clinical signs or become distressed. You need to monitor them closely. You also need to ensure your dog does not escape or run off as they will not be able to receive veterinary care if this is the case.

labrador dog resting its head on its owners lap
Image Credit: Erickson Stock, Shutterstock

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Clinical Signs Your Dog Has Swallowed a Battery

Clinical signs can vary depending on what sort of battery has been eaten, and also the size of your dog. The onset of clinical signs can occur as quickly as 15 minutes after ingestion, although sometimes it can be delayed for a few hours.

Common clinical signs include:
  • Redness of lips and gums
  • Swelling of lips and gums
  • Coughing/retching
  • Black deposits in the mouth
  • Oral ulceration
  • Hypersalivation
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Increased respiratory noise
  • Vomit with “coffee grounds” material
  • Blood in feces
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Adopting the “praying” position
  • Abdominal pain
  • Collapse
Sick and unhealthy yellow Labrador Retriever dog coughing in a park
Image Credit: Dhanoo Surasarang, Shutterstock

What Will Your Vet Do?

When you arrive at the vet, your dog will be taken in and they will be examined. Your vet will perform a full physical exam including a thorough look in their mouth.

Your vet will determine if your dog requires immediate treatment. Your vet is likely to flush their mouth out. They will perform X-rays to locate the battery in the dog’s body. They may also perform routine blood tests and urinalysis to assess organ function, electrolytes, and blood cell counts.

Your vet will remove the battery as quickly as possible to prevent further damage from being done. They may be able to retrieve the battery using an endoscope. This is a thin tube with a camera at the end. It allows for visualization of foreign bodies in the esophagus and stomach. Another probe with a grabbing tool on the end can be used alongside the camera to allow for retrieval of the battery. Some vet practices may not have an endoscope available. If this isn’t possible, surgery is indicated.

Your vet may decide that your dog needs to be given a general anesthetic and operated on to locate the battery. Your vet will assess the area where the battery was located. Depending on the type of battery, there may be serious damage and necrotic tissue present. If this is the case, your vet will need to cut out the necrotic tissue as it will not heal.

When your vet is satisfied all of the battery parts have been removed, your dog will be monitored depending on the severity of the damage sustained. Some dogs require hospitalization, intravenous fluids and tube feeding. Others will require gut-protectant medication and a high-fiber diet. Antibiotics and pain relief will be given if indicated. Your vet will discuss the treatment plan with you.

How to Prevent Your Dog from Swallowing Batteries

To prevent your dog from eating or chewing batteries, always ensure new battery packets, toys, remote controls, and household gadgets are kept well away from your dog. Placing them in a drawer or a cupboard that your dog cannot access is the most sensible thing to do.

If your dog is a known chewer, do not give your dog any toys with batteries in them, or if you do, supervise them, and never leave them unattended with the toy. If they do chew up a toy, make sure you throw away all the pieces as soon as it is broken. Take some time to train your dog to chew only dog toys and not steal human objects to chew. This can be difficult as some dogs have a strong urge to chew, but it can be done.

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Conclusion

Dogs often end up swallowing batteries as they are so widely used in our homes. If your dog has swallowed a battery, treat it as a medical emergency. Some battery ingestions can be mild and do little to no harm to the dog, but others can have fatal consequences within minutes. Therefore, to be on the safe side, you must always seek veterinary attention if you have seen your dog chewing something with batteries in it.


Featured Image Credit: Didgeman, Pixabay

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