Dog Ate Dryer Sheet: Should You Call Your Veterinarian?

Last Updated on July, 2024

Our canine companions do strange things with their mouths, don’t they? 

Sometimes, they attack their own tails; sometimes, they eat grass; sometimes, they ravage completely innocent household items. 

And sometimes they do magic tricks with dryer sheets, which is what yours has just done. And now you’ve got questions and a bad feeling. 

In this situation, it’s important to act quickly but also WISELY. This article will cover everything you need to know to do just that.

Quick Summary

Dryer sheets can be harmful to dogs due to the chemicals they contain, and ingestion can lead to serious health problems such as gastrointestinal obstruction and organ failure.

Symptoms of dryer sheet ingestion in dogs include difficulty breathing, vomiting, skin irritations, and seizures.

If your dog has ingested a dryer sheet, it is important to act quickly and contact your veterinarian immediately.

What Dryer Sheets Do to Dogs?

dryer sheets kept on a table

Dryer sheets can make dogs become sick. Smaller dogs, in particular, can have problems with even a small piece of a dryer sheet.

Similarly, most dogs with sensitive immune systems are likely to show symptoms after ingestion. That being said, even healthy medium to large dogs can show those same signs of illness. 

This is especially true if the dog ate multiple dryer sheets or a whole sheet. But know that any kind of ingestion can have serious consequences for your dog.

Once swallowed, dryer sheets can cause an intestinal blockage in the dog’s gut. This is dangerous because it stops food and water from passing through the dog’s GI tract, which obstructs its blood flow.

A blocked GI tract can become bad enough to require surgery. Even worse, they can become downright fatal within just 3-7 days.

And it’s not just the sheet itself either, but also what’s INSIDE it. If only our dogs knew how poisonous those sheets that they gobble up are. We all know fabric softener is great for clothes, but it’s not so great inside dogs.

The fabric softeners found in dryer sheets contain chemicals such as:

  • Chloroform
  • Benzalkonium chloride
  • Cetrimonium bromide

These chemicals cause irritations on the skin and the mucous membranes inside the mouth. They can also do severe harm to the dog’s digestive tract and cause central nervous system depression.

Some severe cases may even result in major organs being affected, leading to things like lung damage and acute kidney failure.

Even dryer sheets that are sold as natural or nontoxic don’t come with guarantees. What we, as humans, find safe and nontoxic might not work the same way with our dogs. So, even if you’re dealing with such products, assume the risks remain. 

Are Used Dryer Sheets Bad for Dogs?

A woman is putting a dryer sheet into a washing machine

The chemical concentration in a used dryer sheet is less than that found in an unused dryer sheet. However, that does not make them safe.

The leftover chemicals like benzalkonium chloride and cetrimonium bromide are still enough to poison your dog. This means it doesn’t make much difference whether a dryer sheet is used or unused. 

And not to forget, the danger of bowel obstruction still remains. 

Are Bounce Dryer Sheets Bad for Dogs?

The fresher the sheet, the better. Right? Not if it’s in your dog’s stomach. 

Like the others, the chemicals used for fabric softener make bounce dryer sheets harmful to your pet. They attack your dog’s system after ingestion. This means there’s pretty much no dryer sheet that can be considered “safe” for your dog.

The key thing is the chemicals in the dryer sheet and the harm they can cause. 

Symptoms of Dryer Sheet Ingestion in Dogs

A person putting a dryer sheet inside a washing machine

Dryer sheets can cause the following symptoms in dogs:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Abnormal drooling
  • Vomiting 
  • Skin irritations
  • Wounds inside the mouth
  • Swollen tongue
  • Redness and tearing of the eyes
  • Abnormal thirst
  • Stomachache 
  • Depressed behavior
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Seizures

Since dryer sheet ingestion usually leads to gastrointestinal obstruction, look for these symptoms in particular:

  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pains
  • Diarrhea 
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of weight
  • Loss of appetite

Hurts just to read all that, doesn’t it?

These symptoms may not appear immediately, but you should take action if and when they do.

When Should You Call Your Vet?

A black dog laying in a laundry basket

First and foremost, you should relax. It’s important to stay calm and composed. Before calling your veterinarian, backtrack a little bit to make sure you’ve got the issue right.

To start, ensure that there really IS a missing dryer sheet. If you can’t find it in the usual places, do a quick sweep of your home to see if it turns up somewhere else.

Do this, and you can validate your suspicions if the dryer sheet:

  • Does not turn up, and there’s no other explanation for why it’s missing
  • DOES turn up but is clearly bitten and torn in places

So, is the dryer sheet missing from the fresh laundry? And is your dog with the never-ending munchies refusing to eat? If so, then you’ve confirmed the symptoms of dryer sheet ingestion. 

Which means it’s time to call the vet immediately. If the vet is unavailable, use the poison helpline for dogs.

Knowing the context and causes beforehand will help your vet better understand the problem. This means a quicker diagnosis and treatment for your dog. 

Can You Treat Dryer Sheet Ingestion At Home?

While you can’t remedy dryer sheet ingestion at home, you CAN do some things to help your dog through it. First, keep the dog hydrated at all times. Vomiting and diarrhea are common symptoms in this situation, and both deplete your dog of fluids. 

This can quickly lead to dehydration. So always make sure to keep your dog’s water bowl full.

What your dog eats during this time is also important. An ill dog eating its everyday diet is not a good idea. Instead, give your dog a bland diet that will go down easily. Plain white rice with broth should do the trick, aiding a good bowel movement. 

You can shower it with all the treats it wants AFTER the recovery. 

Will Inducing Vomit Help the Dog?

A white and brown dog having a throat pain

When the symptoms appear, you might be tempted to use hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting. The idea is that it will get the sheet out of the dog’s system, but doing this can also cause further complications.

There’s a chance that the sheet gets stuck in the esophagus if it gets regurgitated. Not only will this lead to suffocation, but it bring your dog’s mouth and throat into contact with the highly toxic chemicals that started this mess.

Because of these risks, I strongly advise you to not induce vomiting in your dog. 

Can Dogs Die From Ingesting Dryer Sheets?

This is a scary one because the answer is yes. In fact, there are many complications that ingested dryer sheets can lead to, which may result in death.

Once the dog eats a dryer sheet, it can create a gastrointestinal obstruction. This will become fatal if left untreated. 

In addition, the cationic surfactants found in dryer sheets also pose significant risks to the dog’s health. These chemicals will irritate the stomach lining, cause lung damage, and even shut down the dog’s organs. 

However, remember that these all happen if the dog is untreated. Getting it in front of a veterinarian immediately greatly reduces these dangers.

What Are the Treatments for Dryer Sheet Ingestion in Dogs?

Unfortunately, there are still no specific medications for dryer sheet poisoning in dogs.

However, there are a number of treatment options the vet will consider for your dog after the diagnosis. Since it’s in a medical environment, they may try to induce vomiting to remove the dryer sheet.

This will be done if the dog ate the dryer sheet recently and it hasn’t yet passed through its system. Dryer sheets are foreign bodies, which means they will take around two hours to reach the second intestine.

If the dog is brought to the vet within this window, the sheet can get regurgitated back out. Happy days!

In other instances, the vet may also take an x-ray of the dog’s stomach. Depending on the results, they might decide to perform surgery on the dog. Post-surgery, the dog will be kept at the clinic for its recovery.

Not as happy, but still great news! And the bottomline is that the whole ordeal will be over. 

Other guides and tools you might need when training your dog:

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, seizures are a possible symptom of ingesting dryer sheets for dogs due to the harmful chemicals present in the sheets.

Dogs are naturally curious animals, and the scent of fabric softener in dryer sheets is enticing to them. This may lead them to try and put the dryer sheet in their mouth.

To stop a dog from eating a dryer sheet in the future, do not allow access to the laundry room and keep dryer sheets out of reach. Consider switching to liquid fabric softener as a safer option.

No, dryer lint does not usually cause symptoms like dryer sheets do. However, if you have any concerns, please contact your veterinarian right away.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, a dog eats dryer sheets as a form of mental stimulation. It just happens to lead nowhere good.

As an owner, you are right to have suspicions and fears about what they get up to. And in the case of dryer sheet ingestion, they are totally warranted. 

So don’t just sit there and worry. Take your dog to the vet now. Get those toxins out and put those worries to bed! It’ll all be A-okay!

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Laura Vinzy
Laura Vinzy is one of our contributors. She is also a certified professional dog trainer & currently lives in San Francisco with her husband and her two rescue dogs.

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