Orajel is a medical ointment used to temporarily relieve dental pain from toothaches, sore throat, cold sores, canker sores, fever, blisters, and gum injury. It is a local anaesthetic that comes in varying strengths and concentrations. The gel is typically recommended for adults and babies above two years of age with oral problems, and it works by numbing the treated area for at least 20 to 30 minutes. 

Due to excessive chewing, aggressive playing, or accumulation of plaque and tartar, our furry friends are liable to experience a fair number of teeth and mouth problems, just like we do. But is Orajel safe for dogs as a treatment option? Though it can effectively treat pain in animals, Orajel is not safe for dogs, cats, or any other pet, for that matter. Found out why below. 

Why Is Orajel Unsafe for Dogs? 

The active ingredient in Orajel is benzocaine, which works by numbing nerve endings and blocking nerve signals around the affected area. There are also lighter formulations of Orajel for infants and toddlers that contain no benzocaine. Benzocaine can be safe for dogs in certain ointments or medications. For example, for dogs with ear infections, ointments formulated with benzocaine are effective in relieving pain without any of the associated risks from oral use. Many gels also contain Xylitol, a sugar-free sweetener. Xylitol can cause a life-threatening drop of blood sugar as well as liver failure. 

The risk of giving your dog a benzocaine-containing drug like Orajel for dental relief relates to a medical condition known as Methemoglobinemia. This condition causes the production of methemoglobin, which affects the blood and its oxygen-carrying capacity, leading to potentially life-threatening consequences. Dogs are at risk of developing this medical condition after prolonged oral use. Moreover, the effects of oxygen deprivation can sometimes be experienced shortly after exposure, especially if the dose is of a high concentration or if the dog is a smaller breed. 

Clinical Signs of Benzocaine Ingestion 

Now that you know the possible effects of Orajel,  it is unlikely that you’ll administer it to your dog for dental pain relief. However, should your curious canine see an Orajel tube as a play toy and bite into it, that’s a different story. 

Possible symptoms you may notice include: 

  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Lack of coordination 
  • Vomiting 
  • Skin and gum discoloration 
  • Face swelling 

Treatment Of Benzocaine Toxicity 

Suppose your dog has ingested Orajel in toxic doses; clinical signs may begin within 30 minutes to an hour of consumption. Before the symptoms aggravate, it would help to call Pet Poison Helpline® at (855) 764-7661 for immediate medical assistance. If you have a veterinarian’s contact on hand, that will help too. Typically, a veterinarian will look for signs of organ injury and run blood tests on your dog to determine the severity of the condition. Subsequently, your dog may require a blood transfusion to replace methemoglobin production, and your vet may recommend IV fluids to balance electrolyte levels.