Close this search box.
Home DOG GROOMING My Dog Ate a Hand Warmer. Now What?

My Dog Ate a Hand Warmer. Now What?

by Bella Woof

As the weather gets colder, many homes, coat pockets, shoe pockets, and trash cans will have instant-use hand warmers inside. These single-use hand warmers contain iron powder which when exposed to air creates a reaction that generates heat.

Unfortunately, dogs seem to enjoy chewing or even swallowing these hand warmers, which can lead to serious illnesses. Learn how and why hand warmers are toxic to dogs and what to do if your dog accidentally ingests a pocket hand warmer.

Are hand warmers toxic to dogs?

All parts of the hand warmer, including the outer fabric covering, the iron ingredients, and later the iron oxide ingredients, can make your dog sick if ingested.

Single-use hand warmers are mainly composed of iron powder and activated carbon, and have a fabric-type outer coating. When its plastic wrap is opened and exposed to air, the hand warmer begins to generate heat. As heat is generated over time (typically four to 12 hours), the iron is converted to iron oxide and heat is no longer generated.

What happens if a dog eats a hand warmer?

The outer shell and iron oxide present after the heat generation process are more likely to cause gastrointestinal upset or, less commonly, an obstruction when ingested by a dog. However, the initial form of iron found in hard warmer can cause serious illness to your dog.

Iron is normally absorbed in the intestines. When a dog ingests a large overdose of iron, it damages the lining of the intestines and allows excessive amounts of iron to enter the body. Once excess iron spreads throughout the dog's body, it damages multiple organs, including the liver and heart.

Injury to the gastrointestinal tract is the reason why the first signs of gastrointestinal upset occur, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Additional signs include weakness, lethargy, and abnormal breathing.

As hand warmer poisoning in dogs progresses, damage to the heart and liver can lead to collapse, low blood pressure, abnormal heart rate, liver failure, or death.

Steps to follow if the dog ate the hand warmer

If you discover that your dog has broken or ingested a hand warmer, first clean any remaining granules from the hand warmer and the outer shell material, both to prevent your pet from ingesting more product and to get a general idea of ​​the amount of product. He is lost.

Contact Pet Poison Helpline to help you determine if your dog has ingested a concerning amount of iron and/or packaging and needs immediate medical attention, and what next steps you should take.

All parts of the hand warmer, including the outer fabric covering, the iron ingredients, and later the iron oxide ingredients, can make your dog sick if ingested.

You can contact a pet poison specialist before seeking veterinary care if your dog is not showing any serious signs of illness (inability to stand, difficulty breathing, severe vomiting, or weakness). These specialists will make recommendations for home monitoring or seeking veterinary care as appropriate, depending on the type and amount of exposure.

However, seek emergency veterinary care immediately if you notice serious signs of illness in your dog.

Treating Hand Warmer Toxicity in Dogs

If your dog ate a hand warmer within two hours and depending on the quantity, your veterinarian may recommend inducing vomiting in the hospital as a means of decontamination.

In certain situations, a Pet Poison Helpline specialist may recommend induced vomiting at home under specific guidance. Inducing vomiting in a dog should always be done under the supervision of a veterinary professional.

Forcing a dog to vomit is a veterinary procedure that carries potentially life-threatening risks, such as aspiration and gastrointestinal ulceration, if performed incorrectly.

Depending on the amount of iron left in the gastrointestinal tract, your dog may begin taking medications to minimize gastrointestinal disorders and injuries.

These medications may include famotidine or omeprazole, anti-nausea medications such as maropitant or ondansetron, and medications to cure gastrointestinal irritation such as sucralfate.

In severe cases (such as ingesting a large number of containers or the contents of a hand warmer), your dog may need to be hospitalized for intravenous fluids and additional therapy.

Recovery from Hand Warmer Toxicity in Dogs

By ingesting small amounts of iron, you can expect your dog to return to normal within 24 hours of receiving necessary supportive veterinary care. There may be some mild gastrointestinal upset, changes in appetite, and changes in energy level during this recovery period.

Your veterinarian may direct you to administer medications to support the recovery of your dog's gastrointestinal tract at home.

If you ingest large amounts of iron, your dog may require hospitalization for up to several days. Once your dog is discharged, he may require gastrointestinal support medications such as famotidine, omeprazole or sucralfate and liver support with a veterinary product containing SAM-e (S-adenosylmethionine), in addition to having special dietary needs.

It will probably take one to five days for your energy level and gastrointestinal tract function to return to normal. Follow-up blood tests may be recommended to ensure your dog returns to full health.

Preventing Hand Warmer Toxicity in Dogs

It's unclear why dogs are so attracted to chewing and eating hand warmers. It could be the way they smell or just general curiosity. Either way, it's important to keep new and used hand warmers out of your dog's reach.

Consider storing new hand warmers in a closed drawer or on a high shelf. Hand warmers should be removed from shoes and pockets as soon as clothing is removed and disposed of in a covered trash can or one that your dog cannot access.

Taking a little extra caution with hand warmers this cold weather season will help keep your pup happy, healthy, and away from the dangers of iron poisoning.

Featured Image: AleksandarNakic/E+ via Getty Images


Pet Poison Helpline Veterinary Team


Pet Poison Helpline®, your trusted source for pet health and toxicology advice in times of potential emergencies, is available 24 hours a day,…

You may also like