By Sharon Billings, CVT
Associate Veterinary Information Specialist
So, you left your container of Gorilla™ Glue on your workbench after your last home repair product and your dog found it. You’ve just discovered the container chewed up and some glue may be missing – not a whole bunch, but some. Since it doesn’t look like much is missing, it’s no big deal, right? Actually, it might be a very big deal!
What’s In It?
Gorilla™ Glue and other similar adhesive products contain compounds called diisocyanates. The American Chemistry Council offers this definition: “In use since the late 1940s, diisocyanates are a family of chemical building blocks mainly used to make polyurethane products, such as rigid and flexible foams, coatings, adhesives, sealants and elastomers. Many of the products we rely upon every day are safer and more comfortable through the use of polyurethanes made possible through diisocyanates.”
NOTE: Not all Gorilla™ products contain diisocyanates; additionally there are many other brands of products that contain diisocyanates. We refer to Gorilla™ Glue as the most recognizable brand name for a diisocyanate-containing adhesive product.
What’s unique about diisocyanates is their ability to provide an “expanding” property to an adhesive. Products such as Gorilla™ Glue are great choices for filling in gaps and getting a strong and lasting seal. This same expanding property is what causes trouble when pets ingest the product.
What Happens When It’s Swallowed?
With Gorilla™ Glue and other diisocyanate-containing adhesive products, our main concern isn’t about the toxicity of the product – although it can definitely cause irritation to the skin, eyes, respiratory tract, and GI tract. The main concern is the potential for a foreign body obstruction (or “FBO” for short).
Now, if you’ve used these products, you’re probably wondering what all the fuss is about. You’ve seen such products expand to perhaps twice their original size and then harden. Surely, a little blob swallowed by a dog will just pass on through the GI tract, right? Wrong, because: the stomach provides the “ideal” moist environment for much greater expansion than what you’d expect. Even a very small amount of ingested adhesive can expand until the stomach is completely filled, and then the product hardens into an immovable mass that’s too large to pass out of the stomach in either direction. The result is a dog with a painful belly, vomiting, and an obstructed GI tract (unable to digest food). Simply put, of course, food must enter, be processed by, and then exit the GI tract to sustain life. So once we’re in this situation, surgery is required to remove the foreign body from the stomach. The good news is that the situation is treatable and the prognosis is good if treated. Here to help illustrate this is our friend, Fraser.
Fraser’s mom contacted us when Fraser was found licking adhesive from a container of a diisocyanate-containing product. Fraser was promptly taken to his veterinarian who took abdominal radiographs (x-rays) which confirmed the presence of a large, rock-hard mass in the stomach. Fraser had abdominal surgery and the mass was successfully removed. With his mom’s permission, we’re sharing images of his radiographs and his adorably smiling face, below:
Here, Fraser is lying on his right side and he is facing toward your left (his chest is on your left and his hips are on your right). The large, dark, round area that looks like a fried egg is Fraser’s distended stomach which has been filled with the expanded (and now rock-hard) adhesive.
Here, Fraser is lying on his back and facing toward you with his chest at the top of the frame and his hips at the bottom. Again, the adhesive-filled stomach is visible on your right (Fraser’s left side).
At last report from Fraser’s mom, the surgery was completed and Fraser was back at home, resting comfortably.
What Should I Do / Not Do If My Pet Swallows It?
We just love a happy ending like Fraser’s. His mom did everything right: she did not attempt to induce vomiting (the adhesive expands very rapidly, so inducing vomiting should be done only if advised to do so by your veterinarian or us) and she did not give fluids (introducing water or other fluids could have caused faster and greater expansion of the adhesive). Fraser’s mom contacted us within minutes of the ingestion; with prompt evaluation and surgery by Fraser’s veterinarian, Fraser is expected to do well!