1. If detergents have contact with the skin or eyes, rinse with tap water immediately for 15 minutes.
  2. If caustic or ammonium compounds have been ingested, encourage your pet to drink milk.
  3. Do NOT induce vomiting.
  4. Contact your veterinarian immediately.
  5. Any animal showing systemic signs should be taken to your veterinarian immediately.
  6. Packaging or the product ingested should be given to your veterinarian to aid in identification of the toxin.




Clinical signs may occurimmediately (especially if splashed in the eyes), but gastrointestinal signs may be delayed by several hours.

If splashed in the eye:

  • Red eyes
  • Blinking/holding eyes closed
  • Rubbing eyes or rubbing face on the ground/pawing at eyes

If splashed on the skin:

  • Redness
  • Weeping skin
  • Cracking or blistering of the skin

If ingested:

  • Hypersalivation
  • Irritated gums
  • Depression
  • Vomiting
  • Regurgitation
  • Swelling of the lips, face or throat
  • Ulcers in the mouth or on the tongue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhoea

In severe cases:

  • Weakness
  • Difficulty breathing (dyspnoea)
  • Increased respiratory rate (tachypnoea)
  • Collapse


The main mechanism of toxicity is irritation of skin and mucous membranes that detergents come into contact with. Most household products produce minimal irritation on skin contact, but machine dishwashing detergents are highly alkaline and can produce severe caustic burns.

Splash injuries to the eyes with strong detergents can cause severe and permanent damage to the cornea.

Detergents containing quaternary ammonium compounds (germ-killers, fabric softeners and emulsifiers) can cause severe systemic signs on ingestion.


Veterinary care may include pain relief, potentially gastroprotectants and antibiotics, intravenous fluids. Surgery may be required in the event of gastric perforation. Eye exposure may require medication to treat eye ulcers, and – in severe cases – surgery. Skin exposure may require topical antibiotics and anti-inflammatories


Cope R (2011) Household and industrial toxicants. In: Small Animal Toxicology Essentials ed. RH Poppenga and SM Gwaltney-Brant. London: Wiley-Blackwell. Pp253-272.