Instant hand warmers can keep you warm and cozy as cold winter months creep in. However, the iron contained in warming packets is dangerous for our dogs.
Most hand warmer products state on their packaging to keep out of the reach of children or pets, and there is a good reason for that disclaimer.
Warming packets contain iron which is broken down into tiny pieces to form a powder.
When the warming packet is opened from its pouch and activated, it’s exposed to oxygen and oxidizes, causing a chemical reaction that results in heat.
Other ingredients speed up the process of spreading the powder and heat over the length of the pouch and keeping moisture out, but iron is the dangerous ingredient that pet owners need to be aware of.
Used hand warmers, no longer warm or hot, are not toxic because the iron is considered “inactivated.”
Unopened hand warmers could be extremely dangerous depending on the amount of iron consumed.
Iron toxicity can range from mild to very severe, causing death if not caught or treated. However, per the Pet Poison Helpline, iron is harmful to dogs if consumed in large quantities.
Symptoms of Iron Poisoning in Dogs from Hand Warmers
Symptoms from iron poisoning will typically occur within 8 hours of consumption.
Low levels of iron toxicity symptoms are:
- Vomiting blood
- Black or tarry stool
High levels of iron toxicity symptoms are:
- Increased heart rate
- Kidney or liver failure
What to Do If Your Dog Ate a Hand Warmer Packet
If your dog has eaten an unopened or un-used hand warmer or a portion of it, immediately contact animal poison control, your veterinarian, or an emergency veterinarian hospital during off-hours (nights, weekends, and holidays).
You will be asked for your dog’s breed, age, weight, how many hand warmer packets were consumed, how much time has passed since consumption, and symptoms your dog is experiencing.
The Animal Poison Control Center is available 24/7 at (855) 764-7661. There is a $65 consultation fee.
Store unopened hand warmers in drawers or out-of-reach places from your dog. It’s easy for hand warmers to fall out of pockets, so be mindful of keeping track of them and disposing of them properly.
A case series published in 2008 monitored four adults who unintentionally ingested the contents of a hand warmer and then tested ten rats. Their findings were this:
“It appears unlikely that significant toxicity will occur after the ingestion of one hand warmer packet. The ingestion of larger amounts might lead to iron-related toxicity and may justify more aggressive management.”
The above conclusion seems like good news, but the words “It appears unlikely” should catch your attention.
There are plenty of stories online of dogs becoming sick or dying after eating hand warmers.
Regardless of your dog’s weight or size, get professional advice for any potential medical issue, including one or more consumed hand warmer or any warming product containing iron.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
***This article is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice.***