Dogs eat a variety of strange things (many of which we’ve discussed before, ranging from corn cobs to cigarettes), but a bar of soap is surely one of the most bizarre things your dog could decide to consume.
It makes me mildly nauseous to imagine. Blech.
Nevertheless, soap-eating is a pretty common occurrence. Many dogs even display an outright affinity for soap. Some appear to actually like to wolf it down like food, while others seem to be more interested in chewing the bar and “enjoying” its texture.
Many owners understandably freak out when they discover that their dog has eaten a bar of soap. We’ll try to help by explaining what you’ll need to do below!
Help! My Dog Ate Soap: Key Takeaways
- Most modern soaps are pretty harmless. Your dog probably won’t feel great if he noms on a bar of soap, but he’ll get over it with time.
- Still, you’ll want to contact your vet if your dog eats soap. He or she will likely tell you to take a “wait and see” approach, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. You can also contact the Pet Poison Helpline.
- Don’t confuse soap with detergent — they’re different things. And unlike soaps, detergents are more likely to seriously sicken your pet.
Point Blank: Is Bar Soap Dangerous for My Dog?
No — most bar soaps are formulated from non-toxic ingredients which won’t severely sicken your dog.
He may feel pretty rotten after eating a bar, and it may cause his body to start purging from both ends, but it’s unlikely that he’ll need veterinary attention unless he eats a ton of soap or has other medical conditions.
Still, you should always call your vet or the Pet Poison Helpline and solicit their advice anytime your dog eats something that isn’t obviously safe.
It’s also important to note that soaps containing essential oils may sicken your pet, as some of these plant-based derivatives are very dangerous to dogs.
Do not induce vomiting unless you are specifically instructed to do so by a veterinary professional. Not only is this probably unnecessary in the case of soap, but it can be dangerous to make a dog throw up in some situations (this is a good general rule of thumb to remember any time your dog swallows anything that may be dangerous).
There is a chance that a large piece of soap could get stuck in his esophagus or block his intestines, but this isn’t terribly likely to happen. Plus, soap is slippery, which will increase the chances of it sliding free before serious problems occur.
It is also theoretically possible for your dog to smear some of the soap in his eyes. This probably won’t cause much more than minor redness and irritation, but you’ll want to flush them out with plenty of water and watch him closely. He’ll probably start feeling better in no time, but if he doesn’t, call your vet and follow his or her advice.
Troubling Symptoms in Dogs Who Have Eaten Soap
Even though bar soap is unlikely to cause your dog significant problems, atypical reactions are always possible. Accordingly, you’ll want to be sure to watch your dog closely and seek veterinary attention if he displays any of the signs or symptoms below:
Persistent Vomiting or Diarrhea
As mentioned earlier, your dog will likely experience some intestinal issues after eating a bar of soap. That’s usually not a big deal if the problems go away within a few hours, but if your dog is still suffering symptoms 24 hours later, go ahead and cruise on over to the vet.
Bloating, Unusual Postures, Pacing, or Visible Pain
The symptoms listed above can indicate a lot of different things, including an intestinal obstruction, which can be a concern for dogs who eat a bar of soap.
Your vet will likely need to examine your dog, and he or she may need to obtain some type of imaging of your dog’s digestive tract to ensure that nothing is clogging him up.
Swelling of the Face or Mouth or Difficulty Breathing
These symptoms can suggest that your dog is suffering from an allergic reaction to the soap (or some of the additives in it, such as perfumes or dyes).
This can be an emergency medical situation, and it may ultimately prevent your dog from breathing, so grab your keys, load the dog in the car, and head to the vet. Have someone call the vet or emergency room and let them know you are on the way.
Don’t Confuse Soaps with Detergents
Although the terms “soap” and “detergent” are often used interchangeably in colloquial contexts, they technically refer to different things.
We’re not going to get into a deep discussion of the chemical differences between them, but generally speaking, soaps usually won’t make your dog seriously ill. Detergents, on the other hand, may cause very serious health problems for your pet.
The symptoms and problems detergents can cause differ markedly – there are hundreds of different kinds of detergents, each of which can affect your dog in different ways. Some may have toxic ingredients which could damage your dog’s liver or kidneys, while others may be caustic enough to cause chemical burns.
So, contact your vet immediately if he swallows any kind of detergent. And this includes a lot of things you may think of as “soap,” such as shampoo, dish detergent, and laundry detergent.
Why Do Dogs Eat Soap?
Nobody knows exactly why some dogs eat soap, but it probably has a lot to do with the fact that dogs explore the world with their nose and mouth, and many dogs have an “eat first, ask questions later” attitude.
Most bar soaps are heavily perfumed, and the strong scent may simply spark your dog’s curiosity.
But there’s a difference between a dog that nibbles on a bar of soap and learns from the experience (the practice must surely make them feel like they are experiencing a cross between a hangover and morning sickness), and one that routinely raids the soap tray.
If your pup is young, it may be related to the teething process. In such cases, your dog may not even be ingesting much of the bar of soap. Teething-related soap snacking should be pretty easy to fix – just keep the soap somewhere your dog can’t get to it, and – more importantly – provide him with a suitable puppy teething chew toy to help soothe him during this trying time.
Soap-eating could also represent a behavioral disorder known as pica. Dogs with pica seem strangely compelled to eat inedible items. The condition can involve just about any inanimate object you can imagine. Some dogs consume clothes, others prefer to chew on rocks or dirt, and still others like to munch on paper.
There are a number of hypotheses that seek to explain pica, but none seem to fit in all cases. Some authorities point to malnutrition as one cause, while others report that diabetes and other health problems may trigger the behavior. Stress, boredom, anxiety, depression, and frustration are also likely factors.
If your dog makes a habit of eating soap, start keeping your soap under (metaphorical) lock and key so he can’t get to it, and discuss the issue with your vet.
If your vet determines that your dog is completely healthy, you may want to consider consulting an animal behaviorist to determine the cause and figure out a good solution.
Soap is definitely not something you want your dog to gnaw on, but it isn’t likely to cause serious illness. Just be sure to watch him closely and contact your vet if you see any of the troubling symptoms explained earlier.
Has your pooch ever ingested some soap? What happened? Share your experiences in the comments!