Are Batteries Poisonous to Dogs?

My dog just ate a battery! What should I do?

If you notice that the remote control is chewed on and the batteries are missing, call a veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline® stat! When the casing for a battery is punctured, there is risk for alkaline or acidic material to leak out, resulting in severe ulceration to exposed tissues. The most common battery ingestion is of an alkaline dry cell battery (e.g., 9-volt, D, C, AA, AAA) or button/disc batteries. Alkaline dry cells (the majority of household batteries) contain potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide. When the compounds come in contact with tissue, liquefaction necrosis occurs, causing deeply penetrating ulcers. In addition, newer types of “disc shaped” batteries can allow an electric current to pass to the tissues of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) as the battery is passed. This can result in a current-induced necrosis, resulting in tissue damage or even perforation of the mouth, esophagus, stomach or small intestine. Lithium button type batteries are the most dangerous, as one 3 volt battery can result in severe necrosis to the esophagus or GIT within 15-30 minutes of contact. Finally, certain batteries contain heavy metals (such as mercury, zinc, cobalt, lead, nickel or cadmium). Heavy metal toxicity can occur, albeit rare, if the battery remains in the GIT for more than 2-3 days.

With any type of battery ingestion, seek veterinary attention immediately. A thorough oral exam and physical exam should be performed. Oral ulcerations may not be present for hours. The presence of black powdered material may be seen in the mouth, and occurs when dry cell batteries are punctured. The mouth should be thoroughly flushed and lavaged for 15-20 minutes with tap water. X-rays should be done to look for the presence of the battery in the abdomen. Ideally, prompt removal should occur to prevent further corrosive injury. The use of endoscopy or surgery may be necessary. Inducing vomiting is NOT recommended, as corrosive injury may occur to the esophagus and oropharynx. Treatment includes removal of the battery, anti-ulcer medication (including anti-ulcer medication) for 5-7 days, and a bland or high-fiber diet if necessary.