Paintball Toxicity in Dogs, A Pit Bull’s Story

PaintballsBy Candi Amundson
Certified Veterinary Technician at Pet Poison Helpline®

As a recent pet owner was gearing up for his exciting weekend with friends playing paintball, he purchased a pack of 500 paintballs. He left the paintballs sitting out and left for work. When he returned home he found that his dog ingested all 500 of the paintballs! The dog had already vomited some of the paintballs when he got home, but this pet owner was not sure what he should do next.

Paintballs can contain different ingredients including: Propylene Glycol, Polyethylene Glycol (PEG), Glycerol, and dyes. With a large dog, ingesting 1 paintball may not be fatal; however, with an ingestion of 500 paintballs this dog was in serious trouble! The ingredients in paintballs are “osmotically active,” meaning they pull free water into the gastrointestinal tract. This can result in severe electrolyte imbalances (similar to salt toxicity) and, if left untreated, can be fatal. Also, paintballs can cause a false positive result for an ethylene glycol test (antifreeze) due to the “glycols” in paintballs. It is contraindicated to give Activated Charcoal in these cases.  The clinical signs are similar to a case of salt toxicity as well: vomiting, diarrhea, trouble walking (stumbling), muscle tremors, and even seizures (generally clinical signs develop within 1 hour).

After about 24 hours of being hospitalized, we finally had some good news for this pit bull! With the help of Pet Poison Helpline® and his wonderful (very attentive) veterinarians and technicians, he received the proper recommendations and therapies to help him recover from this potential life-threatening incident. By acting quick, his owner was able to identify the problem, remove him from the area, and get him to the nearest vet ASAP!