household items

Alternate names

alkaline, pH, base, sodium hypochlorite, bleach, dishwasher detergent, batteries, dry cell batteries, cement, drain cleaner, hair relaxer, lye, oven cleaner, danger, caustic, hydroxide

Toxicity to pets

Alkaline substances, which are also called bases, have a pH > 7. Exposure to alkalis can result in a range of signs from mild tissue irritation to severe corrosive or caustic injury, and severity can vary based on the concentration of the product. Common household products containing alkaline or basic chemicals include bleach, automatic dishwasher detergents, hair relaxers, oven cleaners, lye, drain cleaners, wet cement, and industrial pipe and drain cleaners. Alkaline products typically have little taste or odor, making larger ingestion’s more likely to occur and more dangerous as compared to acids, which cause immediate intense pain. Alkaline corrosives can rapidly penetrate deep into tissues resulting in chemical burns that are multiple tissue layers thick. Injury to the eyes, skin, gastrointestinal tract, and respiratory system can be seen. Treatment includes immediate decontamination by flushing the exposed area with large amounts of water, medications to protect the GI tract, fluid therapy, and symptomatic and supportive care. Severe exposures can result in rupture or perforation of the esophagus or intestines.

Common signs to watch for:

  • Drooling
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Ulcerations in the mouth
  • Squinting of the eyes
  • Redness of the exposed area
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain

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The content of this page is not veterinary advice. A number of factors (amount of substance ingested, size of the animal, allergies, etc.) determine what is toxic to a particular pet. If you think your pet has eaten something potentially toxic, call Pet Poison Helpline or seek immediate veterinary treatment.