Dogs are naturally curious and adventurous, which can sometimes put them in situations where they put the most unlikely objects into their mouths. One such object is batteries, which are accessible in almost every home. As a responsible dog owner, you do your best to keep battery packs out of your dog’s reach by putting them in a drawer or closet, but there is still a chance they may encounter one from chewing on the TV remote or kid’s toys. So, what if your dog ate a battery? What is the worst that could happen? Quite a lot, actually. Ingesting a battery can cause severe health damage and even death in a dog. 

How are Batteries Poisonous to Dogs? 

If a battery is punctured, acidic or alkaline material can leak out. The most common household battery, and in turn the most common battery ingested, is an alkaline dry cell battery. These include AA, AAA, 9-volt, button/disc batteries, etc. Alkaline batteries use sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide as the major component. If the battery casing is punctured and ingested, this can cause severe ulceration to exposed tissues. 

Some button-shaped batteries can even conduct an electric current after ingestion, causing current-induced cell necrosis resulting in tissue damage or even perforation of the mouth, esophagus, small intestine or stomach. Additionally, batteries containing heavy toxic metals, such as zinc, mercury, cobalt, nickel, or lead, can cause heavy metal toxicity. Finally, ingesting a battery may cause intestinal blockage that can only be remedied by surgical procedures to remove the battery. 

Clinical Signs of Battery Poisoning 

The clinical signs of battery poisoning are perhaps more obvious than most poisoning symptoms. Many times, you can visibly notice the materials and corrosive effects of the battery in your dog’s mouth or tongue. Other common signs include: 

  • Drooling 
  • Oral pain 
  • Pawing at the mouth 
  • Vomiting 
  • Decreased appetite 
  • Difficulty swallowing 
  • Burns in the mouth 
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Fever 

What to Do if Your Dog Ate a Battery 

If you suspect your dog has swallowed or punctured a battery, treat the situation as an emergency and contact Pet Poison Helpline® at (855) 764-7661 and your veterinarian right away. Carefully flush the mouth for 15-20 minutes with lukewarm water. Do not attempt to induce vomiting because the corrosive contents of the battery can cause further damage to the esophagus. Immediate veterinary attention is required after initial flushing of the mouth. Ulcers in the mouth may not be visible for hours after battery puncture or ingestion. 

Suppose you cannot ascertain if your dog swallowed the battery whole or only ingested battery chemicals; your vet might have to perform an X-ray to know for sure. Your dog may need surgery to remove the battery if it does not pass through naturally. Call the experts at Pet Poison Helpline® if you have any further questions or concerns.