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Glow sticks are made from dibutyl phthalate (DBP), an oily liquid with a bitter taste that's mildly toxic to dogs.1 This substance is currently banned for use in human products like cosmetics and children's toys in several countries and U.S. states because of potential reproductive and health issues.2
Are glow sticks toxic to dogs? DBP is mildly toxic and can produce mild to severe symptoms ranging from drooling to retching.1 However, it's unlikely to cause serious health complications. If you believe your dog has ingested a glow stick, contact your vet as soon as possible and continue to monitor them for signs of illness.
Keep reading to learn more about what happens if a dog eats a glow stick.
- What Chemicals Are in Glow Sticks?
- Is Glow Stick Liquid Toxic to Animals?
- My Dog Ate a Glow Stick: Now What?
- Take Precautions With Glow Sticks & Other Items
- Final Notes
What Chemicals Are in Glow Sticks?
There are several chemicals in glow sticks that cause a reaction. Beyond DBP, glow sticks contain substances like oxalate ester, dye, and hydrogen peroxide. When you activate glow sticks, the peroxide and oxalate esters react, and you see a glow.3
The chemicals in a glow stick are not deadly to humans or pets but can cause side effects.
Glow sticks also consist of a glass vial enclosed within a plastic tube. This vial contains a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and fluorescent dyes, while the oxalate ester resides outside the vial, within the tube. The glow stick is activated when the glass vial is broken or cracked, causing the chemicals to blend together and produce a captivating glow.3
Is Glow Stick Liquid Toxic to Animals?
Can glow sticks kill dogs? It's highly unlikely the chemicals within a glow stick will cause serious harm. Glow sticks are labeled as non-toxic, but they're actually mildly toxic to dogs and cats.1 In most cases, a glow stick won't cause severe symptoms, but you should always contact your vet if your dog has consumed something they shouldn't have.
The taste of a glow stick is offensive to dogs and cats, acting as a deterrent, so it's unlikely they'll consume a lot of it. However, one bite is enough to open the casing tube and let the solution enter their mouth or get on their skin. If your dog manages to break the tube, contact your vet for the next steps.
Unfortunately, the potential dangers of glow sticks to animals extend beyond the mild toxicity of their chemicals. The materials used to construct glow sticks, such as soft plastics and small glass tubes, present choking and obstruction hazards. Dogs may be enticed to chew on glow sticks, causing the casing to break off and creating a choking risk.
In addition, glow sticks are often small enough for dogs to swallow, making it imperative to prevent access to them. Even if a dog does not choke on a glow stick after chewing it, glow sticks can still be dangerous.
Ingesting broken pieces of glow sticks can lead to blockages within the digestive tract, which can be potentially hazardous. You should also be cautious of any attachments on the glow stick. For instance, strings used to turn a glow stick into a necklace can be swallowed and cause an obstruction.
Symptoms of Dibutyl Phthalate Ingestion
When your dog bites into a glow stick, they might accidentally activate it, causing the chemical reaction responsible for giving these toys their glow. The most common symptoms your dog or cat may experience include:
- Excessive drooling
- Irritated, red eyes
- Irritated, red skin
While these symptoms are unpleasant, they can typically be resolved at home with the guidance of your vet.
However, remember, the chemicals inside a glow stick aren't the only potential danger for your dog. If you suspect a blockage or know your dog has ingested a piece of a glow stick or glow jewelry, contact your vet immediately for the next steps.
You should never wait until you see symptoms of a blockage to take action, but you should be aware of the potential symptoms of a blockage after your dog has consumed any non-food items. These symptoms include:
- Painful stomach when touched
- Weight loss
- Decreased appetite4
My Dog Ate a Glow Stick: Now What?
The ingredients and byproducts of glow stick reactions may cause a mild reaction, but they're generally non-toxic. If you believe your dog has consumed any chemicals from the glow stick, you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Staying calm is important because panicking makes it more challenging to help your dog. In most cases, your vet will ask that you monitor your dog over the next few days. If they begin experiencing side effects, you can take them to an emergency clinic. However, there's generally no treatment necessary if your dog consumes the liquids contained in a glow stick.5
You should never induce vomiting on your own. Instead, when you talk to your vet, they can guide you through the process if they believe you need to induce vomiting immediately. This shouldn't be necessary, though. If your vet believes your dog should expel the chemicals, they'll ask you to bring them to the vet so they can avoid any potential problems that can arise.
That said, if your dog consumed the entire glowstick, plastic and all, you should take them to the nearest emergency vet as soon as possible because the plastic can cause intestinal obstructions. The vet will want to ensure the pieces are small enough to work their way through the digestive tract easily.
If your dog has not consumed the plastic tubing, provide them with plenty of fresh drinking water to get rid of the offensive taste in their mouths. You should also wash their fur and skin with shampoo and water to prevent skin irritation.
If your dog ate a glow stick after the chemical reaction began, you might be able to find the solution on their body by taking them into a dark room or closet since the solution will glow wherever they have it on their bodies.
Every situation is unique. Even though glow stick chemicals aren't lethal, you should always talk to your vet. They're the best resource you have available for providing advice.
Take Precautions With Glow Sticks & Other Items
While the solution inside glow sticks is unlikely to cause serious harm to your pet, it's always a good idea to keep them away from dogs and cats, especially those prone to chewing.
Remember, while the chemical solutions in a glow stick cause only mild side effects and irritation, the plastic tubing itself can be more dangerous if it leads to an intestinal blockage. Therefore, there's no reason to keep glow sticks where your dog can get to them.
In addition, to glow sticks, you should be aware of other potentially dangerous objects like holiday foods, decorations, candles, and so forth.
Items like glow sticks should be kept out of reach of pets at all times. You can use secure containers or high cabinets to prevent your dog from getting too curious. In addition, you should supervise your dog when you’re using glow sticks and other items to prevent accidental ingestion.
Creating physical separation using baby gates or a sanctuary space as needed is also helpful. This ensures your pet's protection while potentially hazardous items are out around the home.
Then, when you're done with your glow sticks and other items, you should dispose of them properly. Any dangerous items for pets should be disposed of immediately, especially if they're broken or damaged. Glow sticks can still pose a risk if chewed or swallowed, even if there's no longer a chemical reaction because they're a choking hazard.
They should never be left out on countertops or tables, where dogs and cats could easily reach them. Instead, toss them in a pet-proof trash can or take them directly to the curb to ensure your pet's safety.
Glow sticks are versatile props used for everything from celebrations for holidays like the 4th of July to decorations and parties. However, many pet parents don't realize that the items they use to celebrate can be dangerous to their pets.
While glow sticks are generally non-toxic to dogs, they can cause mild irritation and other symptoms. In addition, they're choking and obstruction hazards, which can be deadly for dogs and cats.
Talk to a Dutch vet today if your dog has consumed any part of a glow stick. We can help you determine the best course of action to help you manage any mild adverse effects of the chemical solutions in glow jewelry and provide advice about the potential for obstructions. Try Dutch today.
"Glow Jewelry." Pet Poison Helpline, 8 Apr. 2022, www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/glow-jewelry/.
Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "Limiting the Use of Certain Phthalates as Excipients in CDER-Regulated." U.S. Food and Drug Administration, www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/limiting-use-certain-phthalates-excipients-cder-regulated-products.
Halford, Bethany. "What Are Glow Sticks, and What's the Chemical Reaction That Makes Them Light Up?" C&en, 19 Oct. 2021, https://cen.acs.org/business/consumer-products/glow-sticks-s-chemical-reaction/99/i39.
"Gut Blockage (Foreign Body) in Dogs." PDSA, www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/pet-health-hub/conditions/gut-blockages-in-dogs.
"Adverse Reaction in Dogs to Glow Stick Jewelry." PetMD, www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/poisoning-toxicity/c_dg_glow_jewelry_poisoning_in_dogs.