Watch Tip: Button Cell Batteries

Posted on January 1st, 2011 by Anna Nirva

Watch Tip LogoWeekly Watch Tip for week of Jan. 2:

Spread the word about the dangers of ingesting button cell batteries found in remote controls, novelties/toys, and musical greeting cards. Pets (especially baby pets) will destroy and eat just about anything. Some things just “pass through” and others get hung up in a fold of tissue. Even intact (unchewed) lithium batteries may cause lasting damage to the gastrointestinal tract in just two hours.

Safety alert! Batteries are dangerous if swallowed—packaging does not inform buyers.

Playful pets who enjoy chewing on household objects are in danger of ingesting batteries, especially little button cell batteries found in so many things, including popular musical greeting cards. If you have a dog who likes to chew paper, you must make sure that musical cards are kept out of cruising and counter-surfing range. The same goes for remote controls (a popular chew toy, according to some dogs and puppies) and small battery-operated toys including pet toys such as battery-operated mice toys for cats (!). Don’t put this off until tomorrow!

“Consumer Reports” published their lab results of a lithium battery ingestion simulation in the December 2010 issue. They put an intact (I assume) lithium button cell battery between two slices of ham. Within two hours, the battery had burned a hole through one slice. They contend that ham slices simulate the moistness of a human gastrointestinal tract. This information is relevant to pets as well, I believe. If the battery was chewed open, risks of immediate illness increase according to veterinarians, but of course you can’t know if that happened because the evidence is inside your pet.

If you suspect your pet has ingested a battery, chewed or not, you must take your pet to the vet immediately. Don’t assume that forced vomiting will take care of the problem—it could increase toxicity if the hydrogen peroxide reacts with battery coatings or the contents of chewed batteries! If the battery was chewed open, you will observe signs of illness right away. Your pet needs veterinary attention NOW.

Petfinder has an article on this topic, written by a veterinarian at the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center. Read more here.

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