Baby Items Toxic to Pets

By Pamela Huyck, CVT
Associate Veterinary Information Specialist at Pet Poison Helpline®

Baby ProductsWelcoming a new baby into the home is a very exciting and stressful time – for you and your pet.  Along with the new baby comes a whole host of new and exciting potential “chew toys” for your pet (no matter how careful you may be to keep them out of Buddy’s reach).  Here are some common baby items and the concerns we have if pets ingest them.

Diaper Rash Ointment (Desitin, A&D, etc) – Dogs seem to enjoy chewing on tubes of ointments.  Many diaper rash creams contain zinc oxide, others contains vitamins.  Typically the big concern with these creams is that can be very irritating to the GI tract.   The creams can be aspirated (get in the lungs) if dogs vomit them up, leading to serious or even life-threatening aspiration pneumonia.

Sunscreen – Both child and adult sunscreens often contain one or more ingredients that are related to aspirin.  Depending on the amount ingested, signs can range from mild stomach upset all the way up to life-threatening signs or even death.  Organ systems that can be affected by aspirin include the GI tract, the respiratory system, the kidneys, and the central nervous system.  Some sunscreens contain zinc oxide which, as mentioned above, can be very irritating to the GI tract.  As with the diaper rash creams, there is also a risk of aspiration if vomiting occurs.

Diapers and Wipes – For reasons we humans probably will never understand some dogs will eat dirty (or clean) diapers and/or wipes.  While this may gross us out, the up side is that these events are usually not a concern for toxicity but rather a concern for GI upset and possibly an obstruction in the GI tract.

Formula – Some dogs enjoy formula cans, containers, and the formula itself – a tasty snack in a fun-to-shred container.  What could better if you’re a dog?  Fortunately, other than GI upset (and possibly GI obstruction if the container was eaten), we usually don’t need to be too concerned about these ingestions.  Formulas do contain vitamins and iron, which can be toxic, but typically they are in small enough amounts that we don’t need to be too concerned unless a massive amount is ingested or the dog is very small.

Teething Gels (Orajel, etc.) – Many of these teething gels contain benzocaine, a local anesthetic.  Some may also contain xylitol, a sugar-free sweetener.  Benzocaine can cause multiple problems, including vomiting, depression, heart arrhythmias, difficulty breathing, and methemoglobinemia (a problem where the blood cannot release enough oxygen to the tissues).  Since the benzocaine is an oral anesthetic it can numb the throat, leading to an increased risk of aspiration if the pet vomits.  Xylitol can cause a life-threatening drop of blood sugar as well as liver failure.